Published Nov 05, 2015Kardinal Offishall has described Kardi Gras Vol. 1: The Clash as his "most complete album," and it certainly touches all the bases. There's the radio-ready trifle "Baby It's U!"; the honeyed R&B, for-the-ladies jam "The Naked Truth"; the slick, high-BPM fun club spin, "Do Dat Dance"; and down-to-earth acoustic guitar on "I'm Just a Man."
Most stylistically jarring are the Future-inspired bangers like "OG" and "No Reason," a pair of overt reaches for an updated 2015 sound — "The following song contain motherfuckin' bad words just so you listen," chirps an Autotuned voice introducing the latter. It also contains Autotune so you listen. But do Kardi fans want to hear him mimic the Travis Scott aesthetic, even with a wink, and even if he does slip in jewels about the unjust imprisonment of black people?
Kardi's playful, reggae-spiced flow is effortless, as always. His charm and elasticity have the rare ability to make anti-violence and exposed hypocrisy sound cool. Even at 39 years old, he can save some risky attempts from the fast-forward button.
Too often, however, forgettable hooks and a something-for-everyone offering of beats detract from the vocals' impact. That quest for sonic eclecticism feels most misguided next to the times he does knock a tune out the park, like "One Dream Away." The Stephen Marley-aided tune is uplifting in a raise-your-lighters type of way, and the closest thing here to an anthem.
"Real Live Gangsta (They Say)," featuring Delroy "Junior" Reid, is blunt and angry, shaming police for making murder legal, but the fierce defiance of the LP's best-executed track slides right into the sunny soca of "Always Carnival Time." It's a fine song, but to celebrate so soon after Kardi's real talk feels like shaky sequencing.
A global student, Kardi has never shied from variety or experimentation — they don't call him "Mr. International" for nothing — but the completeness of this latest record comes at the expense of cohesiveness. (Black Stone Colleagues/Universal)