King Callis is the most notable member of North Carolina’s small Black Peace artist collective. On his lush debut mixtape Brunch (Food For Thought) he establishes the crew as a serious musical force, one with a keen ear for production and a palpable hunger for success.
Throughout the tape, Callis’ beats are front and center; a time capsule of ’90s hip hop spanning all coasts, handled mostly by unknowns SMTHNG, Freddie Joachim and Kankick. While Callis sites Slum Village and Common Sense as primary influences, the daunting enormity of the golden era of Hip Hop grants him several other comparisons. The ones you would expect are here, A Tribe Called Quest’s drums, Q-Tips stop and go spitting and the heartbreaking nostalgia of J Dilla’s wave-y ocean of synth. It’s a breath of fresh air for a hip-hop climate more interested in chicken dancing to trap than locking into a groove.
The tape is reminiscent of Joey Bada$$’s career launching (and ending) 1999 mixtape. There is the same graceful ear for hooks and verses, the same time capsule production savvy and the feeling that dude lucked out with his social circle.
That is to say that the features here cannot be stressed enough. Callis’ small posse, Black Peace, is an exciting group of underground talent that mesh perfectly on Brunch. Unknowns like Nandi Joel and Autumn Lior attend to their hook duties like pros. Mic Iver drops some refreshing verses (his quick line, “With my cash flow / they say I’m an asshole” on “Worldwide” is hilariously reminiscent of Kreayshawn). SideNote also grants the tape a much needed badass femme fatal energy.
That is perhaps, the most notable difference between King Callis’ auditory nostalgia and that of his revival contemporaries: Callis realizes that women existed in the ’90s too. Indeed, many of his best moments are when he relays his bravado alongside female vocalization.
Nandi Joel carries the defeated hindsight of “One Last Time” in a simple breathy question “Can we talk one last time?” she asks, and you can already feel the negatory response. Callis plays the part of the contradicting, scolded lover relating, “I just wanna say I felt us drifting apart / And right now that’s cool even though it’s breakin’ my heart.” His relentless requests to keep his lover forces him to ask again, “If you have any spare time/if you don’t mind, can we talk? / Like we used to / I read something that just brought you to thought.” Reading something (tweets, statuses, Instagram captions?) brings up the lover. He knows he can’t go back, the conversations won’t ever be the same as they “used to.” The song crystalizes the distinction between being in love with a person, and being in love with their memory.
Callis’ also establishes his intriguing character throughout Brunch. Small lines peppered throughout the tape like, “I don’t eat pork and I don’t wear turbans,” and “The Hebrews, you know we G-d’s people” act as hints to Callis’ spiritual orientation. He is one of the Real Israelites, a small sect that believe the true Israelites are of black lineage. It’s an interesting perspective from a group that gets short changed on the PR front.
A prevailing innocence also carries through the tape, a feeling of an artistic co-op just starting to form. It is probably best encapsulated by the end-of-tape skit, wherein Black Peace are bragging at their creation, “Fuck all you haters that didn’t believe in us!”
At one point they fantasize, “You gonna have to pay us!” says one.
“Man, I’m gonna need $5,000 on top,” says another, as if that were a large sum.
In a rap-scape where characters have “Million Five on the Visa Card” it’s a humble admission, one that asserts Black Peace’s integrity, as well as their believability. You could conceivably have brunch with this crew. Consider this your invitation to noontime mimosas.
Words: Ziv Biton
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