January 25, 2014

My Gut Reaction/Something Different: Kenna - Land 2 Air Chronicles II: Imitation Is Suicide - Chapter 3 (December 3, 2013)

Finally managing to fulfill one of his promises, Kenna Zemedkun released the third and final entry in his Imitation Is Suicide series in December of 2013. I say “finally” even though it was hardly the dude's fault that all of his other rumored projects and release dates fell by the wayside: that can easily be blamed on his record labels and the music industry as a whole, running with the current trends instead of trying to build an artist from the ground up. So maybe this joint venture with Dim Mak, Steve Aoki's label, will pay off handsomely in the end.

Land 2 Air Chronicles II: Imitation Is Suicide - Chapter 3, its mouthful of a title, is the third in a trilogy (a trilogy which, when combined, is supposed to be merely the second part of the Land 2 Air Chronicles series: Kenna's certainly ambitious when he wants to be). Each chapter featured three songs all produced by the same person; the initial entry featured the work of Chad Hugo (the quieter half of The Neptunes and Kenna's main producer), while the middle contained work by 9 Of Hearts, someone who I've personally never heard of before and is probably just Kenna wearing glasses to hide his identity. This final chapter is the one most heavily anticipated by hip hop heads who also enjoy listening to Kenna, so by three people, as it was handled exclusively by underground stalwart RJD2, whose own career runs the gamut between DJ Shadow-esque sample-heavy beats to alternative rock.

Sadly, Land 2 Air Chronicles II: Imitation Is Suicide - Chapter 3 ends up merely being an excuse to collect tracks that RJD2 did for Kenna in the past: of the three songs presented, only one of them is brand new. Still, none of these tracks have ever appeared on any proper album, so I suppose it could be much worse.

It took us three EPs, but Kenna finally gives the listener the title track to the Imitation Is Suicide series. The thing is, this song was actually released back in 2009, so fans hoping for more original material from Zemedkun are shit outta luck. The track itself is alright: RJD2's production is weirdly upbeat for a song whose lyrics gloss over Kenna's depression post-breakup. The title is much cooler than the final product, although I liked our host's overall message: refusing to learn from your mistakes can only result in more failure. Then again, this series of EPs could have been saddled with a much dumber name, so.

The lone new song on Land 2 Air Chronicles II: Imitation Is Suicide -Chapter 3 sounds like an outtake from our host's debut, New Sacred Cow, at first, before RJD2's beat hops a fence into wildly different territory roughly halfway through, boosting the energy tenfold. (The music switches up a third time toward the end, with not quite as much success, but it's still worth mentioning.) “How Will It End” is actually pretty fucking good, running a gamut of emotions as Kenna navigates the shifting moods of the instrumental and his psyche. Although I would have enjoyed this track had it stuck to its melancholy muse at the beginning, it's nice to hear how our host is capable of adapting at the drop of a hat.

The final track in the series is also a rerun, a previously-released number featuring onetime pop star Joanna “Jojo” Levesque, who these days might be more famous for her cover-slash-rewrite of Drake's “Marvin's Room” in 2011 than she is for her own material. (If it helps, she doesn't seem to contribute all that much to this song.) This may have been justifiable as a six-minute song had the subject matter actually been overtly about politics, but as it is, Kenna only discusses that topic in a roundabout, metaphorical way. Which is fine, as nobody wants to hear Kenna whine about serious shit: we're here to listen to a dude sing about love and all of its quirks. RJD2's instrumental is surprisingly simple, which is, oddly, a distraction: since this is an RJD2 production, you keep expecting there to be a bit more flourish, and all of that anticipation causes you to not pay all that much attention to our host's lyrics.

THE LAST WORD: Over the course of this series, Kenna has proven that he can take almost any beat thrown his way and turn it into something he can call his very own, his plaintive love songs adapting to nearly every environment they've been introduced to. However, some producers just manage to pull it off better than others, so while RJD2's work on Land 2 Air Chronicles II: Imitation Is Suicide -Chapter 3 is commendable and even manages to take a risk or two, this EP is the worst in the series. Chad Hugo manages to successfully bring out Kenna's playful side, and the middle entry by 9 Of Hearts works on all levels. None of this is to say that RJD2's work is boring, but I've heard better production from him in the past, and he will most certainly deliver better work in the future. Above all else, though, Kenna's artistic voice hasn't lost a step from the early days of New Sacred Cow: he's sticking with what he feels, and that is very much appreciated in this day and age. Seek this one out if you must, but I would recommend listening to his older work while patiently waiting for a third full-length album instead.


Catch up on the Imitation Is Suicide series here and here, and as for the rest of Kenna's catalog, here you go.

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