UK Hip-Hop is a fascinating case study in the culture. It both mimics and trails the American hip-hop movement. On the one hand, British emcees still build their reputation in fierce battles that are wildly popular amongst the youths. On the other hand, once an emcee blows they tend to mimic what's hot and popular rather than finding their own way. Sam Khan is no different. The man made his name in UK's battle circuit; overcoming stereotypes that fueled cheap ethnic punch lines from his opponents. He cashed in on his popularity online, dominating everything from twitter to youtube. His latest release is a free album, distributed online, and followed up with a single and video for a future album. Sadly, "Only One Me" is a misguided and bland effort that overshadows a clearly talented emcee.
The problem with "Only One Me" is the fact that the music has no personality or soul. It's empty, vague uplifting music meant to try to speak to as many people as possible in as many ways as possible. It captures none of Sam Khan's trademark wit and biting humor that is clearly evident if you peep even his weakest battles on youtube. "My Own Direction" finds someone asking Sam "What makes you so special?" His response clarifies nothing:
"I made my own direction reading a torn map
Seemed I was forced back
But I ain't some doormat
I can't be stepped on... fall back
Spitting raw raps dealt with pain
Growing up I dreamt of fame
Like make way on the main stage 'coz
Im'a make 'em spell my name
S to the ... A to the ... M ... K H ... A to the ... N
I don't blend ... in so haters come easy
But it's hard making a ... friend
Got used to the danger zone
Never had that place called home
Is anybody real out here 'coz man all I see is some fakes and clones
So I gotta shut this down
Come with a destructive sound
Dun kno I'm from London town
Tryna make a couple a pounds"
Sam Khan's world is an amalgamation of all the fears and dreams that fuel teen angst. Haters, tough upbringings, and parents that don't understand all stand in the way of wealth, success, and fame. It's a constant imaginary war where the only break comes in the form of falling in love or lust. When he's not telling the haters to "Fall Back," he's busy telling his girl:
"It's gonna be ok, everything's gonna be alright
It's gonna be ok, everything's gonna be alright
It's gonna be ok, it's gonna be ok
It's gonna be ok, everything's gonna be just fine
Because the sun shines bright like a neon light
That's why I know and everything's gonna be alright"
Since vulnerability is also popular, Khan makes sure to throw a healthy dose of it into the mix. On "London Town" he celebrates his humble upbringings:
"I'm from a place in the world called London town
We just wanna see the sunshine come around
Forget the rain coming down I'm dreaming of millions
But I only got a hundred pound, in my pocket
I'm looking to get a fatter wallet
I'ma get there one day that's a promise
Coz when I make a decision I never back up on it
And you can tell when I'm spitting on every track I'm honest"
Unfortunately, none of Sam Khan's personality or life story comes through on any of these empty, predictable tracks. Even on tracks like "Twisted" and "Screwing It Up," where Sam Khan is supposedly baring his soul to love lost, you can't help but feel like you're listening to someone merely saying what they think should be said in such a situation rather than someone who's actually felt that pain. Sam Khan's verses lack the minute details or vivid description that make the long lost lover feel real to the listener.
Sam Khan's transparent attempts to be his country's Drake are his down fall. "Only One Me" is just too general, vague, and empty to be recommended. Very little about Sam Khan is actually revealed through the album's 14 tracks. You get sparse references to an abusive parent and rough upbringing, but there is little else in the form of personality or background. You get a fair share of songs about loving and losing, but little to rebut the suspicion Sam's broken heart is fabricated. You get a lot of motivational music meant to uplift, but none of it evokes true emotion or a genuine connection. It's quite disappointing considering Sam Khan's obvious skills on the mic. The music on the album isn't bad either; consisting of mostly of mid-tempo beats that walk the line between hip-hop anthems and R&B. Still, the music and Sam Khan's skills aren't enough to salvage a played out formula.
Music Vibes: 5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 3 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 4 of 10
Originally posted: August 31, 2010