Keenan Layne is a songwriter and rapper from Knoxville, Tennessee. His been working on music seriously for over a year now. He records, mixes and masters with his friend and producer S.A. On his EP “Ivory” Layne floats through the surreal, chill, smooth and thumping beats with his detailed commentary bringing a measure of intensity. He sounds hungry and lucid, offering songs that provide checkpoints in the recording where listeners’ zone back in, to check them out again and again. The beats push Layne’s storytelling into the core of the cuts, where his bright flashes of lyrical sharpness can cut through any possible loss of attention.
Not one song is skippable on “Ivory”. Keenan Layne’s ability to weave sonic tapestries together into a warm and welcoming enclave of immersive compositions seems to come effortlessly.
As the song “Carry On” begins to flow, it becomes quickly apparent how in-tune Layne and S.A.’s chemistry really is. Keenan rides the pendulous boom-bap beat like a vet, while S.A.’s expert production swells with percussion, shimmering keys, and the occasional retro horn.
The EP’s centerpiece has to be the standout “Autumn Leaves”. Resonant pianos and soulful vocal hooks drive the smooth atmosphere of the song, while Keenan Layne’s rhymes are packed to the brim with endless adjectives, deep emotions and fragmented sentiments, which all fit together like a puzzle. The creative and affecting lyricism Layne consistently slings at S.A.’s dreamy, layered production is compelling, as he undresses his heart.
As we move into “Muscle Aches”, the song showcases Keenan Layne’s flourishing talent for hard-hitting lines and fluid rhymes. While Layne’s flows are impressive enough as is, he also seamlessly switches through thoughtful lyricism. Letting it shine along with his wit.
His vision is focused and at times personal, while his flow and approach is hypnotically accessible to all. Rather than just complex knots in his verses, Layne weaves clear ideas and pictures with his words.
The beat thumps and slams on “Marie Antoinette”, while Keenan Layne’s lyric sheet serves as a sort of dense storytelling tome that can be parsed through and dissected. It’s a beautiful slab of rap music that satisfies on the first play but reveals more of itself with each re-run.
This song gives us a great beat and thoughtful lyrics, and is another high point of this great EP. Layne raps deliberately, finding solid cadences and tight rhyme schemes, as he continues to map the emotions of his own mindset.
Keenan Layne is especially artful when he’s taking cues from his own experiences, and dealing out acquired knowledge. Which is what he does with poignancy and force on “Brittle Bones”. The existence of songs like this is proof that Keenan successfully participates in classic rap. His artistry is a strong argument why these stylings will never die, regardless of the dominance of the new wave trends.
Not only does Keenan Layne display a great flow and real wordplay, he also has interestingly textured production and some intriguing deep themes in his work, all throughout this EP, which closes with the spoken word sample on the title track, “Ivory”.