Ian Kamau September 9 Mixtape

As a precursor to an official full-length due on the titular date, the September 9 Mixtape from Toronto, ON poet provocateur Ian Kamau showcases the intense wordsmith in his increasing role as conventional MC, as he sets his weighty pieces to more traditional hip-hop beats. A collection of somewhat familiar jazz-based sound beds provides the score to a host of biting monologues about both inner and societal struggles that offer much food for thought, and are given proper room to radiate thanks to the leisurely pace of the mix's many rich musical moods. Kamau's more upbeat work, such as the horn-rooted "April Fools" and half-sung "When Morning Comes," fare best, forcing the lyricist out of an incredibly laidback, nonchalant tone that oddly pervades several of his most abrasive verses. Sparser, more mono-expressive tracks cut the deepest, however, and with the inclusion of a couple vocal numbers the combination offers a solid representation of the new directions of Kamau's development as a more complete artist. (Independent)