Ikechi Nnamani, otherwise known as Philly-based kechPhrase, is on the move in a serious way. Judging by the songs we’ve heard from this EP—“Anything,” “Writing on the Wall” and “Can I Flow?”—the rapper/producer’s progression seems something more than slight. His previous release, a beat tape of all original work, showed kech to be an artist of real determination. With Slight Progress, his new seven-track that drops today on Veedhead, the label run by Kool A.D. of Das Racist, he turns that drive into a driving force. It’s perhaps even best evidenced by the last-minute bonus track “Les Temps Qui Reste,” French for “Time to Leave,” which sees kechPhrase present an open challenge to any competitors doubting his dexterity.
A mix of varied styles really suits this EP; even the way the tracks are laid out—with the brand new music padding both ends—allows new and older listeners to enjoy kech’s music with the same balance of freshness and familiarity.
Opener “I Do It (Doin’ Me)” is a clear and strong introductory track, featuring an insistent percussive roll and an admirable blend of bravado and cool. Another highlight is the excellent “Sign Deals,” where at one point a sample from Prodigy’s “Keep It Thoro” falls into this really pretty piano–so pretty I thought it must be a sample. As it turns out, it is and isn’t: kechPhrase actually sampled himself playing a melody from an Ella Fitzgerald song.
And “Fall Back” couldn’t be a better song to finish off the EP, as it’s the perfect reflection of “I Do It.” Kech’s ability to uphold a solid voice on songs with undeniably catchy (and well-sung) hooks shows him to be both self-aware and in tune with pop: it’s just clear that kechPhrase knows what he wants to do and is doing it. Slight Progress is out today, and it will serve as a follow up to a full kechPhrase album in the fall. Listen and enjoy below.