Krizz Kaliko :: Vitiligo :: Strange Music Inc.
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

The following facts about Krizz Kaliko are all strange but true.

Until now you may have thought vitiligo was a fictitious disease, an invention of the deranged mind of Michael Jackson to explain intentionally bleaching his skin. Boondocks fans will be familiar with the character of Uncle Ruckus, a man who believes he was born white and thus suffers from RE-vitiligo, a condition that ultimately turned his skin black. Whether real or animated both men exist on the fringe of believability, whereas Kaliko's real facial features are prominently displayed on his album's cover for the whole world to see. Those who suffer from this rare skin dysfunction are sometimes ostracized from their own peer group due to their strange appearance, and on the title track of Krizz Kaliko's "Vitiligo" one learns that he was stigmatized by his condition.

"I grew up a young choir boy, Christian-like
Krizz is like the last one you ever think to pick a fight
Kids used to throw rocks at me, when the bus stops at me
Houses would come runnin out
Leave my brother alone, she would tell 'em
I'ma kill 'em momma, if they send him home again yellin
I'ma, erase at least one of 'em from this place
I hated they make fun of him cause his face
Go on and on, travellin on through adolescence
Teach him a lesson, carry a weapon
Cause that's the only way to keep 'em off of me, they teasin me awfully bad
Wish I could take off my mask and I'm askin my momma
Why you think the Lord seen to fit to hit me with this
He could make a different Krizz, if he wanted to
Here's what I'm gonna do
I'ma tattoo my face and erase this, this is Vitiligo"

It's funny how some people talk about the innocence joy of childhood when they look back on their youth through rose-colored glasses, forgetting just how cruel and mean children can be to each other on the slightest excuse, and Samuel W.C. Watson's vitiligo was a slight excuse if any. In fact one may rightly suspect that lighting techniques on the album's cover exaggerate the appearance of his condition, though there's little question that it's real or that he was cruelly teased and harassed for it as a youth. No one wants to believe that suffering is the natural course of things for those who grow up to be creative but there's definitely anecdotal evidence to support some of history's most prominent artists and musicians being shaped by similar trauma. Being cast as an outsider can cause one to draw from an inner well of self-expression as compensation, and there's little doubt on "Vitiligo" that Kaliko used his pain for gain. Kansas City hip-hop legend Tech N9ne has known for years that Kaliko ranked above his peers, spotting his talent right away at a chance encounter and immediately signing him to his Strange Music imprint. After years of cameos on Tech's albums it was only a matter of time before Kaliko would be put out as a soloist to unleash both his funkra rap style and his "Anxiety" to the whole wide world, parodying LL Cool J in a most demented way:

"When I'm alone in my room, sometime I stare at the wall
In the back of my mind, I hear my conscience call
Tellin me I need a gun, just in case of a brawl
I can BLAK 'EM, BLAK 'EM ALL, shoot 'em up 'til them fall
Somethin really fucked up goin on inside of me
Can't believe the hold it got on me, it gotta be
temporary, cause this shit I feel is very scary
I think little pills is necessary
Cause I can't tell what I am any more, a animal
From Amityville - be a man and take a stand and he will
DO SOMETHIN 'BOUT IT!! Cause often I'm thinkin 'bout offin me
Yellin to the coffin but hell is gonna be costin me"

Krizz Kaliko's "Vitiligo" would be depressing if it was 21 tracks of his eternal torment and suffering, but Kaliko has found the bliss in his life through touring and recording and rivals Tech N9ne in terms of humor and charisma as a lyricist. "Jungle Love" openly makes fun of white girls who have "like, never been with like a black guy before" while "The Bidness" partners Kaliko with E-40, who vows that Vallejo and Kansas City "attach like jpegs" musically as Kaliko sings about making "the whole club jump 'til the dawn." "Aintcha Bitch" reveals just how many wives and girlfriends creep with Kaliko on the down low over a smooth Soleternity beat of pianos and wailing guitars, while Michael 'Seven' Summers drops the sped up vocal samples on the subtle "Slow Down" as Kaliko switches up his tone to a musical and nearly whispered high pitch flow. Props go to Tech N9ne and female MC Agginy for strong cameos on the track, the latter sounding like a bad-ass marriage of Bo$$, MC Lyte and Mia X. While Kaliko vows that he's "no longer young and dumb" and has traded promiscuity for a wedding ring, he notes in a Screwed up voice that you still have to "keep it-keep it slow when you see the clock movin fast-faster and hope you-hope you watchin what you doin."

Kaliko is very chameleonic on "Vitiligo," constantly changing up his delivery and format yet staying dope no matter how much he switches up. Mistakes are few but with so many songs on his debut there are still going to be a few tracks that aren't up to par. "Crew Cut" has an underwhelming Mr. Rooq beat and so many Strange Music familia on the track Kaliko gets lost in the mix. "Saucy" tries to hard to reach out to the Dirty South, when it's the Midwestern sound and style that have kept Tech N9ne and friends refreshing and original over the years. Three skits really aren't necessary either, as Kaliko is strong enough on his own without needing to be metaphorically explained as a roller coaster ride. Listeners can figure out the ups and downs of his diverse musical style all on their own. One might be tempted to say "Vitiligo" is a surprisingly strong debut album, but only those who don't know Tech N9ne will truly be surprised that Kaliko is a dope MC. While his peers may have wanted him to hide in the shadows growing up Kaliko can't be kept in the dark any longer, showing a talent that shines far brighter than the patches of white skin on his eyelids.

Music Vibes: 7.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7.5 of 10

Originally posted: June 10, 2008