You can call it T Dot, The 6ix, Broadway North or anything else you like — Toronto is one of my favorite places to visit. My trips to Canada aren’t nearly as frequent as I’d like, but if I had Drake’s bankroll I’d probably have a second home there. The mass transit system is better than any I’ve ever used anywhere. The quality and diversity of dining choices — superb. The music scene? Bright and vibrant. The sports teams? Well I’m not a Maple Leafs fan but I could always learn to be. Suffice it to say I have an affection for Toronto to the point I own a pair of Blue Jays socks and I’m a Cubs fan since birth.

It’s because of my affection for Toronto that I need to check myself in the opening paragraph before reviewing an artist like KILLY. With Drake I’ve already got the necessary jaded perspective based on his long career and the way he sprinkles hit singles between mediocre albums. I still like him but I know not to trust him to deliver on a full album. Since this is my first time covering KILLY (born Khalil Tatem) I need to be more cautious. I’m happy to see artists from T Dot succeed and KILLY has definitely done that, starting with “Surrender Your Soul” back in 2018.

As I plunged into this overdue review though I had to ponder if it was because I was hesitant to knock someone from a place I like so much. KILLY’s story is a good one. He grew up feeling like an outsider in his own city due to his Barbadian and Filipino background, moved around a lot in his youth and came back to Scarborough in his teens, and found music as an outlet for his emotions and his desire to be more. He released a song called “Killamonjaro” that went viral that Drake gave it a spin and the No Jumper podcast had him on for an interview. All of his struggles had paid off.

So I like a lot of things about KILLY — where he’s from, how hard he worked to succeed, and the fact we’ve not yet heard any horror stories about fame going to his head (here’s hoping we won’t). And it’s hard to complain about an album like “Surrender Your Soul” that’s only 11 songs and 26 minutes long. That won’t stop me from trying though! To call anything here “bad” wouldn’t be correct. “Cliche” would be better. The singing and the emotional outpouring of “Pray For Me” sounds exactly like several dozen other SoundCloud or emo rappers who also made it big. Even the “yeah” interjections and echoed words between bars are par for the course.

If you’re also expecting nihilism and depression you won’t be disappointed. Songs like “Live Your Last” perfectly embody the trope of a rapper who doesn’t believe there’s a tomorrow and is only living for today. I’m not blaming KILLY for this. I’m blaming the world he grew up in as a young man for making him and all of his peers feel like this. The world collectively raised a generation who saw no hope for the future, and that was BEFORE the coronavirus pandemic. We fucked shit up badly.

“Smoke that gas (yeah), car don’t need no gas (car)
Living fast (yeah), skrrt off on my past (what?)
So damn bad (yeah), I just have to laugh (hey)
Forget the past (hey), live it like your last (yeah)”

In short “Surrender Your Soul” is fine even though I can’t credit KILLY for either doing anything original or being so far beyond his contemporaries he was meant to go viral. In fact (and I really hate saying this) despite all his hard work then and since it feels like it was an accident that he made it. “Killamonjaro” is a catchy song, but like most of these tracks, I don’t find it something I will be overwhelmed by a desire to revisit. There are lots of emo rap artists who made songs that transcended my mixed feelings about the genre. KILLY is just “okay.” I may find more from him on future albums and since he reps The 6ix I’ll keep checking on him to see what else he does — unless it gets so repetitive I see no point in doing so. As a sub half hour start to his career this is fine. I may be damning him with faint praise but I can’t overrate him just because I love Toronto.

KILLY :: Surrender Your Soul
6.5Overall Score