If you aren’t attentive enough you may confuse Kid Ink’s aesthetic for superficiality. The punch-drunk nature of his clubby, infectious hit, “Show Me,” a collaboration with Chris Brown, is a rather cursory reflection of his brand as a whole if you take it simply at face value. However, when digested with more scrutiny, Kid Ink’s music weaves an elaborate web of sounds and textures that tackles classic rap tropes of glitz and glamour with creativity and flair. The LA rapper is quite chameleon like when shape shifting to fit a particular task at hand; his wordplay gets rapid and elastic when he seeks to showcase his lyrical chops and it gets dense and saturated when he wants to lessen the punch. Kid Ink is a character actor adapting his performance to fit his role. On his debut My Own Lane , the production is as diverse as the roles he plays. With a hand from a few famous friends, Kid Ink carves out a space for himself in the West Coast landscape as its resident transfigurer.
My Own Lane is an interesting title for this album given the fact that Kid Ink doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel here. The medley of artistic choices is more a pastiche of signature styles from various genres than creative inception. Still, there is no questioning the project as his brainchild or that he actually feels he’s created something truly unique. In reality, Kid Ink’s debut is less of an innovation and more of an amalgamation; the album is a seamless union of rap and pop motifs, plain and simple. Despite what some might suggest, though, this is just as impressive a feat as generating something entirely original. From the outset, he tightropes genre boundaries with the utmost finesse without venturing off into Flo-Rida territory – or complete pop fluff. Suffice it to say that in his first at bat Kid Ink successfully establishes an identity for himself without pigeonholing his art in its adolescence. His lane is versatility and his awareness of such is what makes his debut so unpredictable and entertaining.
In the same class as “Show Me” – and also Chris Brown-featured and DJ Mustard-produced – is the bouncy “Main Chick,” which is a certified hit in any time zone. Women are often the subjects of My Own Lane, and his anti-monogamous theme is at its most blunt here. He somehow manages to avoid creepy come on territory, though. “Iz U Down,” the album’s recently selected second single is a variant of the rap chart ready jingles supplied in such high quantity on the album with the distinct difference being its lower sonic register. Kid Ink unleashes a rather dexterous flow, and the record has a subdued appeal that you don’t fully appreciate right away. The album doesn’t miss a beat transitioning from one thumping hit to another, and each one has its own endearing qualities, but the DJ Mustard-produced gem “Rollin” is far and away the best thing happening here. Ink’s in full-fledged crooner mode on this one, and as the percussion taps against your eardrum he subtly hums right over it. This is Kid Ink at his most flexible, and Kid Ink at his best.
As good as the LA MC is at churning out club anthems, My Own Lane is a success in part because of the plethora of sonic shifts that take place in between all the dance happy jams, providing texture and spontaneity. Each flow is tailored to fit a very specific array of sounds. Kid Ink is an architect that constructs verses to fit their varied sonic landscapes. “Murda” is about as far from DJ Mustard’s patented “ratchet music” as it gets; its vocal chops and distorted guitar riffs are magnetic albeit a dramatic change of pace, and Pusha T jumps on board to add the cherry on top. King Los provides what may be the album’s best verse on “No Option,” a record that displays dizzying lyricism, but Kid Ink does well to hold his own. The song that comes furthest from out of left field is “The Movement,” a horn blasting, bombastic track that is charming despite its lackluster chorus.
Kid Ink isn’t an innovator. Kid Ink is a masterful replicator that reinvents genre’s strengths and refashions them into a sound that moves forward while managing to stay true to its LA hip-hop roots. He hits all the high notes, tapping into the club energy that will undoubtedly make him a star, but he also hits all the right notes, crafting the more grounded records that will keep him humble. There aren’t many who can effortlessly make the transition from mixtape rapper to hitmaker. For Kid Ink, it is proving to be an incredibly smooth one.—Sheldon Pearce