Not quite six months after the release of a really strong mixtape, K. Flay is back with a new EP that dropped yesterday with really no hype to speak of. It’s a different kind of animal this time out, What If It Is marks the first time Flay has put music up on iTunes instead of being a free download from her website (this one is $3.99). Perhaps this means, as her music has said for some time, that she’s ready to get down to business.
The EP kicks off with the sickest beat you’ll hear this month-part 1930’s horror film, part 2046 jungle-crunk. “Rawks” is the lead track and first single. It could be its own album, it makes a stronger impact than most full length recordings. Nothing has changed lyrically, but Flay’s delivery gets better every time out, and here she’s definitely at her best so far.
The hits keep coming on “Hail Mary,” a collab with hip-hop bad boy Danny Brown. If you’re a fan of his, you’re sure to love this track. Brown’s verse comes out of nowhere and destroys as his voice spits words faster than the human ear can process them. It’s a nice contrast to the redbull and vodka tempo.
The EP takes a turn later on “So What.” It starts with a vocal backed by a bass line that gets so grimily funky it may have been found in Bootsy Collins’ sock drawer. It also features a great sample of Flay’s lyrics:
“Lately I feel sick, runnin from real shit. Gotta bunch of problems that I just don’t wanna deal with. So I’m wallowing all alone, followin my next song. Voices that keep hollerin inside my fuckin collar bone.
Nobody catchin me, livin like I’m 17. Pay no mind I’ll just be mastermindin my own tragedies. I learned to never trust a man, heartbreaks I had enough of them. So I’m creepin down the stairs, didn’t say goodbye. It’d be better but I just don’t wanna try.”
“The Cops” is a holdover from the West Ghost mixtape, and I think it was a good idea to feature it as the final track here. It may be the best song K. Flay has done as a whole so far. It also provides a nice coda for the EP. It’s a major slow down compared to everything before it, and gives the listener some closure.
What If It Is isn’t the best hip-hop of the year, but it is certainly worth your time. When we think back on K. Flay’s career over the next decade, I think this EP is going to be the mark where we say, “That’s where it all started to come together.” If you get a chance to see her live this year, you better do it. Her days of opening and playing small venues is probably close to being over.
If you’re in Chicago you can catch her at the North Coast Music Festival on Sunday September 1st. If you’re busy that day, she’ll be back a couple weeks later at Metro with Icona Pop on September 12th.