Kharmicel Chameleon

On his latest release, Aki Kharmicel turns up the sincerity to explore the many faces of love

On "Natural Law of Attraction," by Aki Khalaq and the Blak Prints, rapper Aki Kharmicel sheds the protective battle armor of his last release, "AAAK," for a smoother, kinder persona -- one that finds him flirting with women wearing hula-hoop earrings and singing about romance over his signature dusty-soul production.

The game of love can be fun to play but hard to master. It holds true for men and women equally, as relationship experiences are something we all have in common. It's also that idea that holds "NLOA" together, whether he's anticipating a lady's smile on "URSMILINGFACE" or telling a victim of domestic violence to "LETITGO" and leave her abuser, Kharmicel's approach, even though out of tune, is sincere -- and he sings about desire, longing and mistreatment with equal conviction.

Even though Aki wades into R&B territory on "NLOA," he does squeeze in a rap verse or two, all stuffed with syllables that are slow and nonchalant. Those verses take a backseat, however, playing a supporting role for his Dudley Perkins-like vocals, with one rap verse every three or so songs.

In typical Kharmicel fashion, the beats knock, with his low-fi, low-end rumble made from chopped samples and looped voices sounding like Madlib on lean. Records are pitch-shifted and slowed down -- way down. It's a foundation of sound built on vinyl digging and Screw tapes.

"BAKHOME" is the brightest spot on "NLOA," with Aki Khalaq singing an off-key interpretation of Prince's "Pop Life." It's broken and lonely, enhanced by his tone-deaf vocals, an original take on the original song and stands as the album's breakout moment.

On "Natural Law of Attraction," Kharmicel explores new terrain. He's restless, stepping just outside of his comfort zone. Based on the strength of his creative will (plus some all-important heart), he pulls it off.

J. Smith, aka 1019, is a San Diego native, rap fan and one half of the rap duo Parker & the Numberman. You can follow him on Instagram at 1019_the_numberman or on Twitter

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