Kevin Abstract is undeniably a hip-hop auteur, an assertion he turns to fact in his sophomore solo album, ARIZONA BABY. The frontman of America's favorite boyband, BROCKHAMPTON, Abstract's sophomore effort arrives as his most personal and impressive yet. Over the course of 11 stunning tracks, which clock in at just over thirty minutes, the anti-pop rapper waxes poetry on his past demons, dreams of rap stardom, and the lived gay experience.
ARIZONA BABY features some of Abstract's best work to date, but by no means is this purely a solo outing. Featuring Jack Antonoff, who produced the entire album, Ryan Beatty, Dominic Fike, and fellow BROCKHAMPTON members JOBA and Bearface, the sonic texture of ARIZONA BABY is sprawling and unpredictable in spite of its relatively short runtime. Moments like "Peach" feel more akin to a summery, laidback BROCKHAMPTON excursion, while a track like "Georgia" arrives as an unflinching look into Abstract's difficult upbringing.
"I often question, I often wonder/ If I told this class I liked the nigga that sit in the back/ How bad would it make me suffer?," Abstract reflects on "Georgia." It is a poignant moment of contemplation that will, unfortunately, strike a resonant chord with more than its fair share of listeners, especially those in the hip-hop community. Rap and the gay experience have historically existed at odds, but in ARIZONA BABY, being an openly gay man in not just rap, but America, builds the emotional crux for an album poised to go down as one of 2019's crowning achievements in hip-hop.
Idk what else to say I'm gay I wrote about being gay a lot they gon be like damn bro really can't write shit no more the group ain't the same no more 😔- kevin abstract (@kevinabstract) April 25, 2019
In many ways, ARIZONA BABY calls to mind a similar landmark rap album, Tyler, the Creator's Flower Boy. The noted departure from the Odd Future founder, who is mentioned by name in the track "American Problem," served as a turning point in the rapper's career, as critics and fans alike welcomed a Tyler who was comfortable in questioning his sexuality and showing off a remarkably sensitive side. And while an album like Flower Boy flirted with the power a prominent gay narrative in rap, ARIZONA BABY takes the notion and runs with it, delivering one of the most overdue rap projects in recent memory.
Listen to ARIZONA BABY below: