KSI has had quite the career, all of which stemmed from his making gaming videos in his bedroom, attracting millions upon millions of YouTube viewers. And ‘JJ’ Olatunji’s musical success is just as super-sized. He dropped his first solo track, ‘Lamborghini’, back in 2015, and four EPs and two solo albums later has become a highly decorated star – 2020 debut album ‘Dissimulation’ attracted everyone from Trippie Redd to the boss Rick Ross. And its follow-up just about lives up to the hype.
On this 16-track long album, KSI makes another honest attempt at a pop–rap, though – as on ‘Dissimulation’ – his featured artists outshine him every time. ‘Number 2’, with a nicely gloomy trap beat partially produced by two rap producer-heavyweights, Nana Rogues and Bankroll Got It, features his goofy lines such as “guess you is the shit now – number two”, but is saved by clean verses from Future and 21 Savage (though even they turn in some mediocre bars here and there).
The YouTuber-turned-rapper fares better with his dance-pop singles, which benefit from the clarity of his vocal delivery. On ‘Don’t Play’, featuring Anne-Marie‘s silky vocal and production from pop newcomers Digital Farm Animals, he makes skilful use of his deadpan vocals over a choppy yet soulful backing track.
But it’s on latest single ‘Holiday’ that KSI really finds his sweet spot. He sings – pretty well; perhaps surprisingly so – over a tropical-inspired love song, which might remind you a little of a mid-’00s boyband pop song. It’s fun to hear him show off his cutesy, emotive side on a track that serves as a lovely pick-me-up moment on the album. ‘Holiday’ is a stark counterpoint to ‘Number 2’, when its effectively simple lines paint a picture of sickly sweet romance: “Strawberry shirts in the sunshine / Ice-cold drinks ’til the moonlight / You’re my holiday”.
KSI’s first two albums haven’t exactly been experimental, and he hasn’t displayed a huge array of great tracks throughout their combined running time, but it’s also clear that he’s still finding his footing in music and figuring out what works for him. And that doesn’t diminish the fact that he has some bangers, despite being pretty hit or miss. This second stab at musical longevity is exactly what it says on the label: all over the place. But at this point in his musical career, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Release date: July 16th
Record label: Beerus Ltd/RBC Records