Bar Exam: 1K Phew – What’s Understood 2 (One Listen Review)
Today I am reviewing What’s Understood 2 by 1K Phew. I’ve not been much of a 1K fan in the past, but I can dig his track “Back Soon” from What’s Understood Vol. 1, and I’ve seen him in concert with Aha Gazelle and Lecrae, so I am familiar. The modern wave of hip-hop is hard for me to wrap my head around. I can vibe with melodies with the best of them, but in my own snobbery, I tend to yearn for lyrical depth as well. Admittedly, I will be listening today with an open mind.
I am sharing all of my notes from my true first listen to the project. I will try and provide in-depth thoughts and commentary on anything from flows, rhymes, beats, creative direction, track placement, and concepts.
Intro – Etherial pads and vocals swell into an introspective hook. There’s a storm rolling in. This introduction cuts off and doesn’t handoff to the next track at all. It’s really difficult to rate intros, skits, and interludes. The purpose is usually to engage the listener, enhancing the overall experience, or is meant to give the listener an emotional push in a certain direction. This might have done the latter, but for me, it was not the former.
Moonwalk – Not sure I’m still comfortable with Michael Jackson references in the year 2019, but here we are. Woodwind samples and a trap beat roll in at the top. While 1K Phew is an artist who 100% relies on his vibes, I actually dig the flow on these verses. The “lights camera action” gets a bit redundant for me later in the song. Foggieraw’s verse is okay but didn’t add much to the track for me. I am not sure the connection between Michael Jackson – moonwalk – lights camera action – and then Super Bowl team at the end. I wish he would have stayed on point to close it out.
Wild N Out – A droning synth riff is laying over the top of rumbling bass. The top of the song has 1k making quite a bit of noise. It’s a lot of hype at first. His flow on the verse is very melodic though.
“I don’t know what to say/Oh, yeah, get out the way/What you want me to stay for?/Every night I gotta pray for/My N.W.A’s/1KF on the raise/Now they lookin amazed/We don’t really get phased”
1K is great at switching the flow up and keeping it going. Lecrae matches his melodic runs and definitely enhances the track with his feature. 1K bookends his verse and closes it out.
Kung Fu – It’s all vibes on this one. Easy flow. Nonchalant vocals just kinda melting over the track. Ty Brasel rips it up. He comes at it from a different angle then brings the melody back to the theme presented at the beginning. WHATUPRG takes it up to a whole other level at the end. BANGER.
Interlude – Awkward transition sonically at the end of this. There’s a big pause before it moves to the next song.
Heat Wave – It’s got a 90s R&B sound to the bed here. A clean guitar riff over a scooping beat. The hook is catchy. He’s talking about turning his life around. He’s thankful for the day ones who support him when he could have been canceled. It’s a decent track.
Thi’sl Speaks – Token message of encouragement/voicemail recording.
Superstar – Strings bring in a poppy beat. 1K is crooning through some basketball references on the hook. The pitch of the vocal is higher for him. He’s in his upper register/head voice. It’s a bit too Keith Sweat/whiney for me. However, in the end Landstrip Chip brings in a vocal that changes the sonic focus of the song. It’s set a bit lower and gives my ears a break.
High Up – Arpeggiating piano and epic strings grow into a lo-fi hook at the top. Overall it feels good. Upbeat. If you need a pick me up or a shift in your mood, this is what you need to get you in a good mood.
Paradise – This is a club type beat. What starts out like a relaxing melody, shifts to a fast-paced flow and 1K maneuvers through the instrumental masterfully. The melodies and flows he can pull off as he effortlessly shifts gears in and out of them is impressive.
“Wanna be GOAT like Michael, I wanna be like Mike”
Can’t Hear You – This is a crazy trap song. It feels like Memphis. Dark overtones and a sarcastic hook. He comes at it with a pause heavy flow that relies on ad-libs. It’s a fun listen. This track is flames. Aha Gazelle comes in at the end. He brings the heat as well and elevates the whole experience.
“Shoot so much that I hurt my wrist/People froze up man it must be a glitch/I was so down for them blue like Stitch/Stealin’ my gifts like a scene from The Grinch/Can’t invest time if I know it won’t flip/Baby ain’t fail but this carnival’s lit/Blood, sweat, tears and it cost me a grip/Didn’t sell my soul but I came out rich”
End Of The Road – The title leans towards Boyz II Men, and it’s supposed to do exactly that. The guitars that come in as the song builds get pretty aggressive and forward in the mix. I wish those were tucked back just a little bit. He’s good with the track placement here. He had some hype songs leading into this more reserved one. It sounds like a big outro for the project. Canton Jones brings some tight vocals on it too.
Glory – It starts with piano. I was ready for a Chris Tomlin feature. Feels very worshipful. This one is about our future hope in glory. Seriously this project is ending with the best run of songs. This is a perfect way to leave the listener – wanting more. This track specifically has some CCM shine on it, but it sounds great and is executed very well.
Overall I’m pleased with this project. The energy is placed well throughout. Seemed like it dipped a little in the middle, but ended in the best way possible. In some spots, I felt like he had trouble staying on point with the concepts presented in the songs, but his creativity isn’t lacking at all. He finesses a beat and brings so many different perspectives and unique decisions when it comes to his performance. There are lyrics there that are deep, but because of the overall musical experience, you miss out on what he’s saying. These are tunes you have to let just wash over you. You can’t nitpick through everything.