On his latest mixtape, "No Salary Cap," 27-year-old rapper Cali Kev rifles through high speed quote-ables over stuttering hi-hats and trap inspired production.
At first pass, it's easy to make Migos comparisons with the fast delivery and matter of fact approach, but that's a bit of a lazy, surface level observation. Style matters, as it should, but his never supersedes what he's saying and it's in those things -- what he chooses to reference -- that Kev creates a unique point of view.
Case in point, "Deebo," where he name checks Ricky Williams, the former Heisman Trophy winner and Patrick Henry alum who kind of quit pro football to get high. By way of this gem, "roll the weed up / blunts like this is what retired Ricky Williams," he not only communicates how potent his own marijuana is but also gives an astute nod to a hometown iconoclast.
His strength is in his wit with a subtleness that side steps the predictable. He's clever and shrewd enough to know better than to telegraph his punchlines -- like on "Airmax," when he raps, "man down / my n****s keep them sticks just like a camp ground."
He also understands the importance of quality visuals and in his video for "Madden 2004," Kev lets loose on Monta Vista High School's football field, citing local particulars the Cheesecake Factory and Fashion Valley while looking over his "quarterback wrist." It's a blend of personality and process as he's serious about what he's doing but doesn't take himself too seriously.
There is an underlying message here though. Just beneath the sports metaphors, fun and blunt smoke, he explains, "'No Salary Cap' is a project from start to finish [that] is all about making the proper place[ments], manifesting what you want and getting exactly what you deserve, no more and no less."