You get so used to hip-hop and rap being built of sharp lyrical edges and pounding backbeats, of being bombastic and in your face that when something like Live to Ball comes along it seems like a wonderful breath of fresh air. What King Femi seems so good at is taking all those tried and tested hip-hop sonic building blocks, all those urban music attitudes, all those rap ways of doing things, and knocking the rough edges off.
After all, most of the musical hallmarks are still there, the trippy, trap percussion, the pounding bass and backbeat, the skittering electronica and all the usual chirping vocal inclusions, it’s just that none of them seem particularly forced on the public at large and the music seems to glide past rather than rush the listener.
And that’s cleverer than you might first think. It delivers those who know what they like all the familiar musical tricks and traps, all the things that they would expect to find the modern rapper working with but it also offers a new way of doing things, it pushes at the boundaries, follows its own path. Live to Ball will both keep the old school happy and appeal to those looking to stay ahead of the curve or leave their comfort zone. And that’s a neat trick to pull off.