So the character wars continue in Hip Hop. More weeks have passed and more action figure holograms have found their way into my browser download list. Few of them have made much of an impression if any. But, Western Tink caught my attention, and then proceeded to present a record that was exactly what it said Hard to Keel. After a week of listening to the album I’m having a hard time wrapping it up into a neatly written summary. I reached out to Tink—he got the name Tink from his dad, and the Western part is because he’s moved around the Western United States –and one of the first questions I asked him was what songs and albums he was listening to to while he was making the record and he said:
Television’s “Little Johny Jewel,” Gil Scott-Heron’s 1980, DJ Quik’s “Dollaz + Sense,” John Forté’s “Focus Up,” Johnny Guitar Watson’s “Wishing Well,” Don Diego’s Deadman Talking, The Strokes “Someday” and some DJ Screw, Scarface, Talking Heads and Mac Mall.
This broad selection is kind of like a refraction of the record. Calling it a reflection wouldn’t be accurate. But the same ear that chooses to listen to those records also chooses which beats to rap over. The record is cohesive, and it has arcs. Tink creates an atmosphere that’s varied, and while it can come off as amateur, that’s only if you don’t grant him the credence that comes along with cultivating something that is not explicit and pre-defined. Tink’s music isn’t about fitting into the existing mold. It’s about walking up next to it, taking a picture, and then going to make some music and forget about the mold. Feel me?
The record comes in at roughly 47 minutes, and while not all 47 of those minutes are as brilliant as others, some certainly are brilliant. You can hear a serious capacity for language in the way he writes. Phrases are turned, and inverted, words are taken down to self-descriptive interdependent letters “I Go/ like a G and an O”. That’s one of the most incredible lines I’ve heard this year, and I’ve listened to a lot of raps this year. Hard To Keel is not short on moments like this.
This record is also very obviously a labor of love, as is evidenced by the lack of professional engineering or mastering. Again, you could take that as a bad thing, but I take it as obfuscating reassurance that Tink isn’t doing this under the auspices of anyone but Tink. This is just a very refreshing moment of an artist compelled to make art, and doing so without getting caught up. Tink has been making tunes for 3 years, but only recently started putting out music for other people to hear. Personally I’m glad he’s doing it. We’re lucky to get a glimpse of an artist with such a robust approach at a young age, because by the time Tink has put in a few more years he’ll have developed something really incredible and it’ll be tough to tell that there was a time when he wasn’t a pro.
It’ll take you a while to pick up on Tink’s flow, his diction, and all of the intricacies that make him a young artist to keep an eye on, but I promise it’s there, and I promise it’s worth it. He isn’t taking the obvious path. He isn’t making the obvious rhymes, he isn’t standing on the shoulders of the same tired cadences, he isn’t relating his life to the same tired narratives. Dude is making his own lane, but actually doing it. If you must skip tracks, peep “I’m Cold,” “Stay Up Way Up,” “Hittin Corners,” “Twerkin,” and “2 the Death” to get an idea of what he’s working with. And keep an eye out for Hard to Keel Vol. 2.- Zachg