A seamless fusion of indie rock vocals and hard bars have been a recipe for success for the Brooklyn by way of Ohio production duo, The Kickdrums. Their most recent output, Follow The Leaders, takes this already proven formula to the next level. With a guest list including the likes of buzzing acts Casey Veggies, Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire, Gilbere Forte and Freddie Gibbs, it’s feature-packed. There was even an A$AP Rocky and Lana Del Rey collaboration that got pulled from the release at the last minute. (Rumor has it Rocky is planning on including it on his debut studio LP.)
Follow The Leaders opens with the cinematic “Thieves In The Choir,” where a cruising bass line carries lead vocalist Alex Fitts’ Thom Yorke-esque vocals and a slick verse from Los Angeles up and comer Casey Vegggies. The triumph of The Kickdrums’ style lies in a balancing act of genres, where everyone sounds at home, and no one out of place. This might seem particularly challenging on “Want My Blood,” where Chicago MC Rockie Fresh meets Australian punk band, DZ Deathrays, but The Kickdrums manage to weave the disparate sounds into one cohesive head-banging affair.
The dark, claustrophobic energy of “Want My Blood” is followed by the breeziness of “My Life,” a spin on the Billy Joell classic in which The Kickdrums elicit bars from fellow Ohio representer Machine Gun Kelly. Another element that accounts for the successes here is how The Kickdrums are able to stray from the generic crossover formula of rappers spitting over some rock beats. The production itself combines genres, as do the vocals. The Freddie Gibbs’ appearance on “Come Come” is built on a sample from The Delfonics “Ready or Not Here I Come,” the same sample behind the Missy/Da Brat classic “Sock It 2 Me.”
A$AP Rocky guest spot or not, Follow The Leaders holds its own throughout, inviting listeners to take a step outside their comfort zone, whatever their sonic inclinations may generally be. The Kickdrums’ signature hybrid is executed with such a high degree of quality, that they are quietly drawing the blueprint for rappers who want to work outside their box. Having said that, somebody seriously leak that A$AP/Lana track. —Neil Martinez–Belkin (@Neil_MB)