“Sometimes I gotta choke back the pain when I’m speaking on the black folks, ’cause I recall a day when it wasn’t such a thing as to be woke….Did God put this burden on me? To be the scarred reflection of the things they can’t see.”
In 2018–2019 America we’re experiencing the effects of a previous time period when our acceptance and progressiveness was hasty and, for lack of a better term, half-assed. Now as we all learn, grow and try to truly recognize and validate the places we come from as we move toward one another, film, art, and music play huge roles in this re-questioning and cultural recalibration. Houston Kendrick and his newest album are here to serve and champion this movement.
Houston Kendrick’s debut mixtape PINK is a diverse and dynamic collection of laments riddled with experimental production and powerful vocals that melodize the questions we’re asking ourselves again as a culture.
As a black, homosexual teenager growing up in the fringe of an urban metropolis in Alabama, Kendrick developed a homespun fluency in hip-hop and R&B, all while dealing with marginalization, assumptions, and prejudice. He titled his mixtape PINK as its a representation of all three.
Our first impression of the color pink is that it belongs to girls and, more importantly, that it doesn’t belong to boys — an inchoate understanding of sexuality that eventually grows into more complex prejudices between men and women. PINK, with its name, encourages a freedom from those prejudices and the idea that, without them, sexuality becomes dimensional, like love, rather than categorical, like gender. Its message of solidarity is delivered through his creativity, which is so palpably firing from a place of unflinching personal acceptance. If we can see ourselves in a new, compassionate light, we’ll continue to notice the similarities that tie us together.
Houston Kendrick has been releasing singles since 2016, but this is his first official project and it is an emotionally powerful triumph.
He combines the vulnerable softness of Frank Ocean, the flow of Kendrick Lamar with the groove of Anderson .Paak — all the while maintaining a bright and controlled vocal that’s reminiscent of Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder.
The way he alternates between smooth runs and choppy rapping really sets him apart from his peers in urban music. It’s not just hip-hop, it’s not just R&B, and it’s not just rap. It’s everything.
PINK opens with a ballad that introduces both Kendrick’s smooth tenor vocals and his conversational rapping style. It’s so refreshing to hear someone who can truly master all three of these genres, all while singing & speaking words that actually matter. “Oh God hear your children: we need a father now,” Kendrick pleads.
“BLaCKTHiNGZ” is one of the previously released songs from the record and it’s for sure a standout. Kendrick has a really unique take on black America and “wokeness.” As is “DELINQUeNTS,” which has a very clear part I and part II. “Doesn’t the fact that I act like I don’t care make me seem cooler to you?” Kendrick has a great self-awareness of his youth.
“LiNES” might be the most commercial and it’s one of my favorites. The beat grabs you immediately, and the production reminds me of Louis the Child and the song overall sounds like if Daniel Caesar put out an upbeat single.
“HOME.” is the longest song on the mixtape and it’s a beautiful and hopeful closer. “When you’re weary in your bones, you can always go home” he sings with a gorgeous vibrato backed by chill-inducing choral BGVs.
The production and songs themselves are very unique, varied, and unpredictable throughout. Every song is also very atmospheric. You can tell Kendrick didn’t want you to just hear his music, but experience it too. He’s only 22 years old, and I draw comparisons to artists like Frank Ocean, Daniel Caesar and Anderson .Paak not to convey that Houston Kendrick is a derivative of these singers & lyricists, but to express that they could someday be his peers.