For the readers out there who regularly tune in to our podcast, Music Ninja Radio, it is common knowledge that Kai Wright (aka Sango) is one of our most played and beloved producers. Since first bursting onto the scene via his remix album More Balloons and solidifying the fanbase with his debut LP North – an album that I still refer to as the greatest collection of music since its Summer 2013 release – Sango has truly spearheaded a sonic movement. Working with the influential Soulection crew, as well as the Grand Rapids/Seattle collective Astronaut Gang (AGO), Sango has pushed the boundaries of experimental trap & instrumental hip-hop well past would-be contemporaries everywhere.
Since 2013, Sango has been grinding nonstop, putting out projects regularly and dotting standalone works and remixes in between each of them. 2014 saw the release of the Tuebor mixtape and the Until Then EP, two projects distributed in tandem with AGO and Michigan rapper Waldo respectively. 2015 brought us Hours Spent Loving You, a seven-track release featuring SPZRKT throughout. With a knack for effortlessly rotating new figures in as the Robin to his Batman, Sango has produced with Dpat, Joose, Ta-Ku, Amos Rose, SEVENth, JMSN, and countless others.
In a Kid Cudi-like move (a la Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven), Sango broke from the traditional path and explored his own unique creative process in releasing Da Rocinha 2, Da Rocinha 3, and the Mais Mais Mais EP. Following this lengthy and successful foray into the world of progressive Latin American drum beats, foreign vocal samples, and Brazilian inspired anthems, Sango has circled back to a more straightforward brand of hip hop with his latest creation, Tomorrow.
Released July 22nd, Kai’s latest work – this time paired with fellow Seattle musician Dave Bowman – is a polished hip hop project; short enough to keep the attention span of the modern fan at just under 40 minutes and intricate enough to impress those with an ear for subtlety. As NPR’s Kiana Fitzgerald accurately points out, Dave B’s harmonization on the intro track “Zonin’” invokes immediate comparisons to Chance the Rapper’s trademark flow.
Pulling double duty throughout Tomorrow with his talents in both rapping and singing, Dave B brings a dynamic range rarely seen on a two-man project. In taking the best aspects from Sango’s previous works and vacillating between smooth crooning and hard hitting lyricism, Dave pulls his weight in making Tomorrow the latest in a long line of successful Sango releases.
The following track, “Help Me Find A Way” is propelled by a trap-injected brass loop and toned down bass lines. As one of the early releases, this is a particularly strong example of the pair sonically pulling the best attributes from each other. Not to be outdone, “Drugs ‘n Such” features Dave B’s quick witted bars being recited in a cadence similar to Goldlink’s popular track “Dance on Me”. The song that stands shoulders above the rest, though, is “Do Not Disturb,” which features Seattle emcee Key Nyata in a sequence of sparring verses with Dave B over a hauntingly distorted melody.
After a passable interlude in “Gone”, Tomorrow picks the pace back up with the 3rd and final single released. “Parallel”, which features a choir vocal loop from the start, is interlaced with a bass-heavy beat pattern and an echoing Somali proverb. More so than any of the previous tracks, “Parallel” stands out as a track that would have been praise-worthy with or without the additional lyrics.
“Nothin” borrows from the sharp usage of silence as a piece of music previously seen on “SNS”, only to break that silence and capitalize with the particularly sing-songy lyricism Dave brings to this one. “Got It From”, the first single on Tomorrow, has the most soulful vibe on the album and contrasts sharply to the previously mentioned “Parallel”.
The outro track “I Don’t Care What Y’all Think” is a reminder that old habits die hard, as Wright can’t help but sneak in some of the Brazilian drum patterns and loops that he made popular with “Me dê Amor”.
Fans of Sango presumably will be kept satiated by Tomorrow for the foreseeable future. Regardless, if history is any indication, a new project is just around the corner for the rising star producer. Dave Bowman and his multifaceted lyrical style should also be making more regular appearances as a featured artist with other producers seeking a talented voice for their beats. Readers hoping to catch some of this project live will have one single chance next month; Sango’s only slated appearance this summer is at the Afropunk Fest in Brooklyn on August 28.