KD Young Cocky in cover-art form
  • KD Young Cocky in cover-art form

Lately Chief Keef’s been dropping tracks so frequently it’s like they’re forming a trail of breadcrumbs leading to some long-delayed mixtapes, which, as of last night, come to a grand total of three. In the initial wake of Keef’s new busy season another local pulled me in while kicking out a steady stream of new material: KD Young Cocky.

I’d been transfixed by the rapper-singer months ago thanks to his turn on the chorus of Lil Herb’s “On the Corner,” off February’s Welcome to Fazoland. KD doesn’t so much straddle the line between rapping and signing as much as he skillfully coasts on that line at a comfortable pace, draping his voice with a tasteful, golden layer of Auto-Tune to deliver an impassioned, refined performance. In just a handful of lines he evokes all the gut-twisting conflict of the street life Herb raps about on the track, and KD strikes a balance of rap elegy and pop ecstasy so well that the whole song shines.

YouTube video

Recently I’ve been hooked by KD’s own material, though admittedly the tune I’ve kept on repeat is a reworking of Lil Wayne’s recent single “Grindin’.” On the original tune Wayne raps, “I got this shit down to a science, I turn in my project, A-minus.” Unless my understanding of grading systems is totally off Weezy’s score is on a serious curve when it comes to his recent work, but the notion that he’s got his art “down to a science” speaks to the drop in quality he’s exhibited. At its worst Lil Wayne’s newer material feels more like coding experiments than colorful, mind-warping displays of lyrical acrobatics.

Part of the reason I’m so taken by KD’s version of “Grindin'” is that, unlike Wayne’s complacent performance on the original, KD consistently and audibly gives the track all his effort; it shows in one listen through August’s compilation mixtape, Smoking Right Now: Worst Enemy. KD covers some well-tread stories about street life—his opening lines on “Can’t”: “You don’t know about my struggles / it’s either kill or be killed / I swear shit done got real / lost family and friends in the field”—but his performance and delivery are convincing enough to make those lyrics resonate.

Leor Galil writes about hip-hop every Wednesday.