We only hear acclaimed hip-hop producer Kenny Beats’ voice one time—that we can be sure of—on LOUIE. On “The Perch,” a young Beats can be heard interacting with his father, Kenneth Blume II, as co-host of a fictional radio show his father conjured up to give personality to the mixtapes he would make for friends and family. LOUIE is likewise a gift, from Beats (Kenneth Blume III) to his father, created in December 2020 after finding out his dad had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Though LOUIE contains a heap of vocalist features—including contributions from Vince Staples, Mac DeMarco, slowthai, JPEGMAFIA, Thundercat, Omar Apollo, and Fousheé, among others—there is very little in the way of formal verses. The project is much closer to an audio collage, with Beats curating moods across the project’s 17 tracks through a combination of sampling and live musical arrangement. None of the directions he takes things in are particularly obvious for the man who’s produced entire albums for artists like Vince Staples, 03 Greedo, KEY!, and Denzel Curry, to name but a few. Here, he’s spotlighting some of his favorite musical factors, exalting bright guitar licks on “Hold My Head,” a pacing akin to lovers rock reggae on “Hooper,” and on “Rotten,” a neo-soul aura so true it would make the Soulquarians proud. The beat for “Still,” which features contributions from JPEGMAFIA, is maybe the single thing a classically operating MC might rush to rap over. Without speaking directly to Beats, or even Kenneth Blume II, it’d be impossible to decipher the musical connections and/or messages LOUIE carries for Beats’ father. Most of the speech is distorted, and few samples therein are anywhere near as recognizable as the usage of Foster Sylvers’ “Misdemeanor” on “Drop 10.” But the fact that we’ve been granted access to what is essentially a love letter from a son to his ailing father—Beats’ original plan for LOUIE did not include releasing it publicly—is proof that no matter how far the producer goes, he’ll never forget where he got his rhythm.

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