Kid Ink. I know it’s unprofessional to just go all first person and say I typed those words and then sat through three listens of this album, unsure what else there was to say, but here we are. I suppose a little backstory is in order considering he’s a near 30-year-old with a child’s nickname who’s been rapping on a major label (RCA) for nearly four years with no discernible excuse as to why. Originally calling himself Rockstar (not to be confused with DJ Rockstar), he was one of major California DJ Ill Will’s first “big” discoveries. He’s quickly come to amass a number of high profile artist features and producers’ beats over the past three or four years, but big names alone do not make a successful career, and so he has mostly amounted to the guy people sometimes confuse for Tyga when times get rough.
Full Speed feels like his first major album but it’s really his fourth; it probably feels that way because it’s the first to sport not one but several regional woulda-been hits, as well as the bona fide “Body Language” featuring Usher and Tinashe. As a track, it’s nothing special truthfully, but with a DJ Mustard-aping beat from radio fiends StarGate and Cashmere Cat (aka DJ Fatal), it fit in just fine over the fall as a sort of digestif from that long, dreary Iggy Azalea summer. When an album’s biggest hit and most notable track is something that calls to mind anyone but Kid Ink, though, it’s worth wondering whether the album to which it calls home is worth any credence.
Full Speed opens answering that question with a resounding, “Well, no, but, well…no?” “What It Feels Like” and “Faster” are an odd opening sequence if for no other reason than they both very openly ape Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy; the former is clearly an amateur-professional’s take on “All of the Lights”, while “Faster” wants so badly to be “Hell of a Life” by borrowing that track’s echoplexed chorus. Kid Ink also borrows Yeezy’s Yeezus shrieks and his flow, and if it weren’t for a pretty dope, haunting use of something that sounds a lot like Amnesiac-era Radiohead for the beat’s backbone (courtesy of rising genius DJ Dahi), it’d be fairly easy to convince someone it was a reference track that Kanye used to create his pornographic fantasy.
Truthfully, that’s both Full Speed‘s biggest flaw and greatest asset throughout the album. “Dolo” probably would have been a reasonably recognizable single except its choral melody and overall composition borrows too ferociously from “Touchin’, Lovin'” by Trey Songz. “Like a Hott Boyy” proffers a good deal of new age Atlanta menace courtesy of Metro, DJ Spinz, Young Thug and MPA Shitro, which makes it all the more odd as a closing track for Kid Ink’s decidedly Los Angeles, palm trees and roller skates pop rap. “Hotel” doesn’t suffer from such open biting, but it does suffer from being pretty played out. At its very best, “Hotel” wants to be the Cassidy and R. Kelly duet for a new generation, but neither artist bring enough villainous swagger to its bland misogyny for such an accomplishment.
The rest of the album is just pleasantly there, come-and-go sunshine rap. Kid Ink has a bad boy image, from his name to his skin, but at his artistic core he just wants to make popular radio rap songs, and that’s not so bad a goal, I swear. It’s just that he can’t figure out how to do so without finding tracks that fly too close to stars that have already shone, or to non-hits Ink needs to be hits because he can’t conceive an album for album’s sake. Ultimately Full Speed feels like an album struggling to recreate “Body Language”‘s success over and over, sing-rapping his way through a variety of pretty familiar scenes exemplifying just how hard it is to be a talent in major need of a vision.