Thus far only in grime music and British hip hop has there been any real prevalence of rap lyrics that are half sung, half rapped lyrics. The only other real example is Bone Thugs n’ Harmony, which is actually more similar to the style of KID LAB RAT, the Australian lyricist whose style merges elements of hip hop, indie rock styles like nu metal and a bit of electronic trap. His newest single, “My Blackened Heart” comes off his second album, More Sad Songs, released this year.
“My Blackened Heart” is a great example track to describe KID LAB RAT’s style. Indie and alt rock fans will hear a correlation in the music and production with Candlebox and Linkin Park. The track is still composed like a hip hop song, however, with elements of trap and a rolling beat and simple backing guitar melody that never reaches a crescendo like in a pop or rock song. This is done so rappers can continuously spit over the track, and spot KID LAB RAT does.
Far from mumble rap, it’s likely that KID LAB RAT (KLR) picked up his propensity towards sung and spoken lyrics while living in the UK. Based in Manchester, he toured all over the country with alt rock bands before returning to Australia. While cutting his teeth on rock, some grime must have seeped in there somewhere but whether it did or didn’t, KLR’s vocal tone is one of a kind. He spits fast but has perfect diction and the sort of minor tones and the notes he ends on with each verse pay homage to both indie rock and hip hop.
Not all the tracks on More Sad Songs are so clearly in the rap wheelhouse. On much of the rest of the album, KLR actually sings his lyrics in a sort of raspy, down-pitched Mike Ness punk style. This makes it even more interesting when adds hip hop elements to the music. KLR did all the instrumentals and production himself and the arrangements are thus as unique as his vox. In album opener “Roses,” he mostly sings with a truly beautiful piano accompaniment and listeners may be lulled into thinking that’s all to the track, but a set of amen breaks come in towards the end and he switches to more rapped lyrics but the drop is not a hip hop beat. Rather, a section of rock appears and KLR belts out a heartfelt ending to a slow burn of a song.
By contrast, “Just Like You Said” is almost completely rapped, with a subtle hip hop beat behind it and heavy lean towards nu metal. Probably one of the more energetic tracks on the album, “Just Like You Said” showcases KLR’s storytelling abilities. It will sort of remind millennial audiences of Everlast or Cage the Elephant and is certainly poignant and germane to the current times.
Clearly talented in a number of disciplines from instrumentalism to production to songwriting, there truly isn’t anyone who combines all these talents and multiple genres into this mindbending and emotive style known as KID LAB RAT. Extremely well-done, it’s also confusing and confounding to the tech and theory nerds, but that’s a good thing. More Sad Songs forces the listener to really listen and feel what’s being said, so no matter whether it’s rapped, sung or both, it’s an excellent way to get a point across.