Not Klyde Opens His Book With 'I<3NK'

Not Klyde Opens His Book With 'I<3NK'

Not Klyde surprised fans on December 22 when he announced that he would have an album releasing and the next day confirmed the release date would be the 12th of January 2024. In his words, “This album is an address to the avid nk listener and fan. I<3NK explores the idea of on-screen personas, social media profiles, & caricatures vs. the behind-the-scenes, real-life, oftentimes regular human experience,” explaining that this is meant to be authentic and “a tearing-down of The Pretend. Needless to say, you can tell this was his intention, and I<3NK comes across as a real, raw, and introspective piece about who Not Klyde is and who the real Kyle Yumang behind the persona is while still being true to his art and his at-times relaxed and humorous approach to hip-hop.

His approach comes across immediately in the opening track, also titled “I <3 NK”. It begins very softly with a female vocal “I love you NK” intro that hearkens back to his previous work while the beat immediately sounds like something fresh. The way the beat, flow, and other elements work together aids in this sort of introspective style where, while important and interesting, the beat takes a back seat to the lyrics. He asks how people can love or hate him without knowing him, shower him with praise, get stuck in his past, and try to start beef. As this is a self-portrait and his Christianity is especially important to him, it becomes an integral part as he raps that “they don’t know me like you know me” in reference to his relationship with Christ. This track is a wonderful way to introduce this album and kick off the project's message.

“Velvet” compares his humanity and his identity in Christianity. He talks about the comfort he feels in his faith but also asks that people not chastise him for his desires. With how judgmental the CHH scene has been over the years, it always becomes an interesting tightrope for many artists. It would seem that NK has felt that judgment but also wants to let people know that the “velvety” comfort of his faith is of great worth. The styling of the lyrics is akin to a lot of his signature style, with the line, “keep me locked and loaded and that book ring till it burns,” feeling like something straight out of Mastery Seven.

“Japan” keeps the energy up and talks about his relationship with fame and his wife. He talks about feeling as if he isn't “poppin’ yet” and has “baggage” that he has yet to collect. After his reference to being “in his bag” in the opening song, it is clear that he isn’t done with his progression as an artist yet and wants to keep pursuing furthering his art. He also shows great affection for his wife and how she has helped him succeed, saying he “can’t make it out" without his wife by his side and offering to fly her wherever in the song's chorus.

“Baptize” continues his commentary on his faith and fame. He talks about how he does not care about fame but more so wants people to hear what he has to say about the Christian faith. In the Christian faith, the act of baptism is one of renewal, and while this is meant literally, it is also interpreted as renewing himself as an artist. He is using this project to pull back the layers of his persona and redefine himself and his purpose for the future of his art. He ends the song saying, “I’m living brand new,” cementing this idea.

“Born in November” and “Time Spent” are further about who he is, with the former feeling like a reference to a younger version of him and the latter talking about his music career. He talks about how he used to be concerned with going mainstream and how he “got a rollie to commemorate the time spent,” as it took him a long time to get where he is, both personally and professionally. “Pay Respects” becomes a logical follow-up to “Time Spent” for Not Klyde as it is about paying respects to God for his blessings.

“I DON’T LIKE” refers to how people have judged him in the industry for dressing differently than everyone else, having a unique style, and generally acting in a different manner than the typical CHH style when he got his start.

“NOT DRIVE” and “GRU” are some of the most fun songs on the album, feeling to be made for that reason. Both have bouncy and entertaining beats, and the lyrics are the same way. They keep a similar tempo and range to the rest of the album, though, as his production stays consistent with his new style. “GRU” really grew on me the more I listened to it (yes, I know that was bad) with its fun chorus: “You did me despicably, but my money still grew. One in a minion for you, I’d never steal the moon.” While others might be turned off by the sillier nature, it is something that I have always enjoyed about NK’s music, and so this satisfied me.

“PROVIDE” is the first track that was teased in the album rollout and is lyrically very strong. It explores the idea of God providing for those who believe in him. The flow of the middle portion of the song is very catchy and stuck with me as I went about the week, specifically his delivery of the line “I’m not that good of a driver.”

“CAROUSEL” and “REFRESH” are once more about his faith and the ways he feels refreshed and fulfilled by it. “REFRESH,” in particular, ends the album with callbacks to the opening track in lyric and flow, ending with the line “you love the realest of me. K Y L E.” This calls back the original concept of the album of it being a peeling back of who he is as a person and an artist and seemingly ends in a place where this album shows to have been about himself, Kyle Yumong.

Whether you find yourself to be a person of faith or not, this album has much to offer. While the themes primarily deal with Kyle’s personal walk of faith it is never told in a way of forcing you to believe the same faith or shaming you for not believing. It is simply his self-portrait of who he is. As such, alongside the great production and lyricism, it is a piece of art that can be enjoyed by all, and for those who share a belief system with Kyle, it can be a reminder of those values that they hold true.

While the production was consistent and nicely so, I would have enjoyed more of his signature sounds or even a slight change in pace a few more times than we got in the album. Ultimately, for fans of Not Klyde or people just getting into his music, this is a great example of an introspective album, and I can see this being one I return to repeatedly.

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