In this economy, embracing a soft life can be complicated—much like living as a queer Black man anywhere on Earth. Nobody understands this better than Chicago rapper Roy Kinsey. Kinsey’s musical approach is tactical and autobiographical: he works a day job as librarian at a west-side public school, and examination informs his art, resulting in a profound discography.
In person, Kinsey exudes self-assurance and magnetic sexual confidence; he often feels the cold edges of an unforgiving and prejudiced society, but he still wants to play. Kinsey describes his latest project, Vol. 2: Soft Life, as an “audio postcard . . . a li’l love note.” With Mike Jones handling the bulk of production, Kinsey covers a lot of ground across the record’s brief four tracks. Tough-as-nails opener “Stay Dangerous” collides Kinsey’s caustic verses with the kaleidoscopic flow of Mvte (aka Chicagoan Mia Moore). After setting that do-not-fuck-with-me-or-my-people vibe, Kinsey slows things down for the fluid, sensual “Libra’s Lullaby,” which features drippy, R&B-flavored guest vocals from local singer-songwriter Demetruest.
The viral “Think big, bitch!” TikTok vocal sample sets the tone for Kinsey’s prideful bars on closer “Truly Iconic.” He delivers the lines “Blond hair in my bonnet / I ran shit up at Target / For them coins I’m goin’ Sonic” with breezy bravado over sparse, bouncy production. As artist and activist Ricardo Gamboa said during a Kinsey listening event a couple years back, “This is not reactionary queer hip-hop.” These are the chronicles of an artist tackling the complexities of life through reflective music and—for the time being—welcoming some relief.
Roy Kinsey’s Volume 2: Soft Life is available through the artist’s website on April 7.