ALBUM REVIEW: 'API' - Kidd Santhe, Gard
API is a project by two Malaysian rappers, Kidd Santhe & Gard. It’s a joyful take on the trap sound, keeping things interesting and dynamic.
RELEASE DATE: 15 FEB 2019
GENRE: TRAP / RAP / HIP HOP In order to understand the dynamite nature of API, it helps to have some knowledge about the two people at its helm. Kidd Santhe is one of my favourite Malaysian rappers right now, after having first been exposed to his greatness via the song Elak Elak. The rapper’s bilingual zingers often builds up incrementally to a satisfying punch. Over the years, especially after his latest single release “Rindu”, and from his features with other great rappers like Airliftz and Altimet in his song “Muda”, Kidd Santhe (also known as Lil Milo) has matured in his flow and lyrical work. He also never shies away from more comical stuff too, such as the song he did with Internet comedians, Harvinth Skin #DBAP , or the remix he made with DJ Biggie for the Dato’ Vida song “I Am Me” - a rich celebrity entrepreneur from the Malaysian state of Kelantan who is a favourite of the local meme culture. On the other hand, his labelmate Gard (both of them are part of the label Monster Sounds), also a relatively recent presence in the local rap scene, leans towards a darker, R&B trap sound. His style is not really about punchlines as much as Kidd Santhe’s as much as it is about trippy beats with occasional flames here and there. He released a mixtape back in 2016 called Gard v Korang, which was run-of-the-mill, coming short of being straight fire beats but still packing heat with songs like AK47 Part 2 with Yung Malay. If I could say just one thing about the API project is that it brings the best out of both artists. They are far enough apart from each other on the spectrum of rap/trap/hip hop that there’s much needed diversity in terms of flow and lyrical style. The story of this album is told through several interludes in which Gard & Kidd Santhe, are siblings/friends hanging out, often interrupted by a nagging mother figure. These "sibling/friends" dynamic is very homely and at times funny. The interludes that depict their conversations show them lazing about, commenting on life, including topics like try-hard rappers and love. I love the chemistry between the two, as Kidd Santhe plays the more staid sharpshooter rapper, while Gard, often drenched in autotune, plays a more whimsical role. But at its core, I think the interludes show from the very beginning that this album is a passion project with a DIY sheen, which is not too far off from the truth since Kidd Santhe & DJ Biggie are behind the production. The production work on this album is pretty decent. It’s essence is classic trap, with your heavy,sub-bass layered kick drums, syncopated rhythms, dark ambient synths, yet it never feels too derivative. There are some really cool production details such as the flutes that make up the beat for Terkial, the slightly more soulful and jazzier hip hop take in Meriah or the drumline in FUMAKILLA. However, the inconsistencies in API are not negligible. One of the things that oscillate between “just right” or “too much” is Gard’s autotune vocals. It’s integral to Gard’s sound and personality, so at times it’s fun and infectious, like in GRRT GRRT (which features a reference to the cartoon Adventure Time), but other times, the autotune seems to be too distracting or just plain excessive. An example of this is in the track Terkial, where at first I welcome Gard’s part, but over time it got so tiring that when Kidd Santhe comes in it feels like a breath of fresh air unfortunately. The same goes for Meriah, which starts off with a great soulful sample, but then slowly devolves into a slightly exhausting drivel. The hook “Dulu aku takde duit beli rokok” works with the vocal effects, but it grows quite stale in the last half. Don’t let any of that make you feel that Gard is a liability though. In tracks like Matkool, Gard shines through, with a fun, offbeat flow and memorable bars like “Drop bar, macam Drogba". One of the strongest tracks in API, their take on the ice cream brand jingle is dope with a bouncy sense of fun that you’d get from a Rae Sremmurd cut. One of my favourite tracks is the song Fumakilla, where the chemistry between Gard and Kidd Santhe is at its most explosive. Fancying themselves as the insecticide of a scene filled with “nyamuk yang suka cari gaduh” (likening rappers who like to look for a fight like mosquitoes), eliminating them as Fumakilla, a famous Malaysian insect repellent brand. The braggadocio in Fumakilla is insatiable, and the kickdrums on the cut is a much-needed break from the rest of the album’s heavier, electronic sounds; most evident in the backbeat during the refrain “And my gun go *tsst*”. It makes Fumakilla punchy and assertive, on top of the straight disses that both Gard and Kidd Santhe serve in their bars. The way they reframe the adjective “lit” from a compliment to a warning is one of those brilliant lyrical moments in the album. (Nyala lighter kat depan/Member member kau jadi litnya faham). Not to mention Gard walking into that beat with so much attitude and confidence puts a huge smile on my face - a testimony to the functional contrast that he brings to the table. (Wow dia kata dia legit, sumpah itu tak logic/ Itu kisah dongen! Tongkat tanpa magic).
The absolute best cut in API has gotta be FATMILOTRUCK. The song title is in reference to Kidd Santhe’s other name Lil Milo and the chocolate drink Milo, fitting the autobiographical nature of the track as Kidd Santhe runs over metaphorical traffic with his oversized Milo truck (that takes up two lanes). Everything from the one-two punch verses from Kidd Santhe e.g. “"Flow tight macam jeans aku dah ketat baby / Sebab aku too phat, bagai Malique aku hilang macam gemuk, takde six pack" to the part where he raps about his mum questioning his career choices e.g. “Tapi mama, aku ada drive! “Buat apa ada drive, kalau tak mampu beli tayar?”. The hook in this track is solid, where it comes to a gradual slow with deep vocal mixes and bass. Gard’s segment in FATMILOTRUCK is a great example of him tastefully using his autotune to accentuate his flow. "Ulang" is another cool production. Even if the bars themselves don't do much, the guitar licks at the end acts as a wonderful conclusion to the album. I love it when the chill, jazz-based hip hop beat penetrate through the trap veneer, and I was kinda wishing for that the conclusion of Ulang was a longer song. The fact that Gard starts off the song by asking Kidd Santhe to play the guitar riffs again is endearing and overall a really good touch to the album. It’s moments like that that gives API a very spontaneous & natural feel. They are just two friends with a dream and a little talent; sometimes that’s all you need to make it work. There’s an interlude in the album where Kidd Santhe and Gard talk about other rappers who don’t take risks, and are always trying the same thing. As self-centered as that sounds, there’s some truth to it in API’s efforts. I believe both of them has shown how much they can push the trap sound to interesting levels. Some of the tracks may fall through as forgettable or just not hard-hitting, but API’s a project worth checking out because of the nuances it adds to a genre people often dismiss as contrived, cheesy or corny. There are definite bangers in API that can keep you hooked for days, and the personality of both rappers gives the album a distinctive paintjob.
FAV TRACKS: FATMILOTRUCK, FUMAKILLA WORST TRACK: TERKIAL RATING: 3.5 / 5