[Review] Kayo – “S.L.A.V.E.” EP

Tomorrow (September 17th), St. Lucian emcee Kayo will be releasing his latest project, the S.L.A.V.E. EP, through Black Box. At nine tracks, S.L.A.V.E. truly feels more like an album than an EP, and the attention put into the project reflects that. Says Kayo, the production of S.L.A.V.E. was mostly in-house with himself and Yogi: “We did a lot of creative things in terms of collaboration with different producers where we’d bring people in and collaborate on the beat, so we’d have three different producers on one beat; Cam Smith collaborated with Ritchcraft, and they collaborated with Yogi, Chris Noxx… I feel like we captured a vibe that hadn’t been captured yet.”

As Kayo tells us, he wanted to create something with a sense of creative duality: “When you take a word as harsh as ‘slave’ and you try to turn it into something that could be interpreted in an almost positive, or beautiful, way. That’s why I created the acronym ‘Serenity Lives Around Virtuous Energy’.” The core message, says Kayo, is that you can be the light you want to see in your life, something for which he drew upon his own experiences: “Taking all those negative things that I felt that I was going through, and harnessing that energy into something positive.” Read the track-by-track review below and pick up S.L.A.V.E. on September 17th.

1. “Don’t Bring Me Down” feat. Lisa Scinta
The EP gets to a start with a song that Kayo’s been teasing for awhile now, “Don’t Bring Me Down”. Kayo raps, “They’ll try to bring you down, but works can never die/ See, every young king is bound to be crucified.” We spoke to Kayo earlier about the inspiration behind this line, and here’s what he had to say:

Kayo: I like to think of myself and my peers, and those people working towards these goals that we’re working towards, as young kings in the making. Royalty and rebellion, so to speak, where it’s like you’re really taking it upon yourself, and doing exactly what it is you want, regardless of what society [says], or any other element that’s telling you otherwise. You continue on that path. You stand out, you’re exemplary in society. You’re sticking to your guts [and] doing whatever the f— you want to do, and you come out as a young king. That’s how I see it.

But with that being said, every young king is bound to be crucified. No one’s ever going to see [your drive] in the beginning. All those billionaires that dropped out of school, and then made billions, I’m sure when they did it, no one was really for it. You’re gonna make these kinds of decisions in your life that you know are gonna be beneficial to you, but the rest of the world isn’t necessarily gonna see it like that, and you’re gonna get crucified for those decisions. But in the long run, [those decisions] are gonna make you a young king.

2. “S.L.A.V.E.” feat. Quake & Kirsten Olivia
Next up is the title track, boasting a strong feature from Quake. It’s always been good to hear these two together on a track, ever since The Search. The production is dark, and the rhyming is on point. One couplet – sung powerfully by Kirsten Olivia – immediately stands out in the opening seconds, which gets repeated in the chorus: “I’ve been through some things, I survived the times/ And even in my darkest days, my light still shines…”

3. “Rich Already”
Following “S.L.A.V.E.” is the first single off the EP – and one of the stronger cuts off S.L.A.V.E. – “Rich Already”. Chris Noxx handles the production, as Kayo delivers some of the best verses off the entire EP, talking about the frustrations he’s had as well as the things he’s learned in the music industry – something Kayo touches on in our interview:

Kayo: Being a new artist in a major infrastructure like this brings restrictions that can be very frustrating if you don’t really understand the situation that you’re in. Now that I’ve gone through all these different things – and I don’t want to speak on it too much – but the whole recording process for this album, being on a label, has been extremely good, but frustrating at times. And now that I have this kind of renewed inspiration and energy towards it, I really want to move forward with that mindset.

4. “Anybody Out There”
Here, we get one of the more different songs we’ve heard from Kayo, featuring an electric guitar-driven backdrop and rock-n-rollish chorus. As unexpected as it may be, it works. I can see crossover potential in this one.

5. “Jaded”
On “Jaded”, Kayo talks about how the music industry has changed how he interacts with other people, and his struggle with these changes: “I don’t wanna end up changing for the sake of fame/ But it’s hard when childhood heroes praising your name…” The chorus is solid, and the production is tight.

6. “Transitions” feat. Cam Smith and 7. “What You Want”
I’m going to treat these next two as a combination, since the first more or less flows into the second. Kayo breaks out the sing-rapping on “Transitions”, holding a conversation with a woman over some electronic production, co-produced by Cam Smith. The track also boasts a solid guest feature from Smith. Kayo then transitions – pun intended – from sing-rapping on “Transitions” to straight-up singing on “What You Want”. This one’s definitely for the ladies, y’all.

8. “Song For Nicole”
Kayo raps another of his best verses off the EP on “Song For Nicole”, one of the shorter songs off S.L.A.V.E., if not the shortest. The production (again, co-produced by Cam Smith) is excellent here, some of the most interesting of the whole EP. Standout line: “What would I be without my people?/ Well, what’s a tree without its roots?”

9. “Apology Accepted”
Another one of the standout tracks off S.L.A.V.E., boasting some infectious piano-laced production and an equally infectious hook: “She say I came back different/ I say I came back significant.” Compared to the darker and more serious themes of the rest of the EP, “Apology Accepted” stands out as a bit of a lighter moment amidst the bunch. If this marks the official conclusion of S.L.A.V.E., then it also marks a moment of closure for Kayo; all of his previous frustrations and grievances have been let go as he looks forward.

Overall, the EP is a truly impressive, cohesive piece of work. Kayo’s progressed since The Escape Movement, and it shows throughout. Personal favourites: “Don’t Bring Me Down”, “S.L.A.V.E.”, “Rich Already”, and “Apology Accepted”.