With his debut album finally out, K Camp seems intent to be more than just another 'here today, gone tomorrow' character. But will "Only Way Is Up" prove to the public that he's the future star he wants to be?
Where were you when you first heard K Camp? Was it years ago, when his guest feature on Sy Ari Da Kid's “Popular” made him a hook artist worth keeping tabs on? Did it happen at the beginning of last year when his anthems “Money Baby” and “Cut Her Off” were dominating radios and leaving air pockets of bass around the cars that blasted them? Or was it a few months ago when you might've clutched XXL's new Freshman Cover mumbling “K Camp? Who?” And that's the weird thing about K Camp; despite having numerous hits featuring or starring him in the past year, not too many people talk about him in the revered tones other rap stars have earned. Despite a number of tapes and a pretty solid EP (last year's In Due Time) chock-full of sleeper gems, K Camp's debut album has about as much anticipation as a straight-to-Netflix indie movie. Does Only Way Is Up prove that he's been slept on for far too long?
From the jump, K Camp appears to be ready to disprove any idea that his skillset revolves around simple, repetitive singles. The introduction to the album, the Jeremih-boosted “Change” has a dreamy swirl of ghost-like sampled voices while K Camp starts us off with surprisingly effortless double-time flows used to contain musings on his past. Afterward, “Till I Die” features a myriad of aggressive boasts and tounge-twisting raps that find guest T.I. playing foil to the surprisingly competent host. By the time we get to his single “Lil' Bit,” with its gritty hook and beat interplay, it becomes fairly apparent to the listener how K Camp seems rather relentless not to let the beats alone carry him, but to deploy as many styles and showcases of skill as possible. Granted, some of our readers may be raising an eyebrow at the description of K Camp as an above-average contender, but the work speaks for itself.
Also noteworthy is the solid production, mostly handled by often under-appreciated names such as Honorable C Note, Bobby Krucial and K Camp's main sparring partner Big Fruit. While some of the other ATLien mad scientists who've worked with K Camp in the past are duly missed (such as “Cut Her Off”'s Will-A-Fool or “Oh No”'s TM88), the main team have put in the work to craft solid southern-urban-pop for Only Way's star to ride with ease. Whether its the gentle pillow-soft bass of “This Way,” the breezy synths of “Comfortable,” or the thunderous clamor beating beneath “Rolling,” the soundtrack to K Camp's tales rarely clash. Its a conservative show out in all, but designed to smoothly flow in transition from jam to jam. Perhaps the one exception is his awkward “We Made It” jack on the punchy “Yellow Brick Road,” but given the general solidity of the album's sound, misfires are easy to overlook. The occasional voiced-over skits try to give the album some sense of conceptual cohesion, but wind up feeling like unnecessary trappings.
Of course, content-wise K Camp hasn't really made too many strides to excel. He can talk about generic tropes such as loyal friends and hovering haters, loving women and scandalous bitches, hard work and selling hard, to turning up and showing out. It's a pretty typical affair, and as much as he's worked on putting on a good show, he hasn't quite gotten the hang of taking his concepts a step further than the safest of pastures. Occasionally, he leans on guests of a surprising roster like Snoop Dogg, Bun B, French Montana and Yo Gotti, to help break up the monotony, but you can tell these are mostly a bunch of checks being cashed, and not a lot of inspiring performances are delivered. He's clearly spent a lot of time ensuring that his debut is a professional sounding project for people to enjoy, but it's a bit hard for anyone to discern how K Camp is any different from the average rapper as a person.
Only Way Is Up appears to be one of the most solid rap albums of the year, and validates that K Camp is intent to remain in the rap game much longer than anyone would expect him to, especially based off the catchy yet disposable quality found in his singles. Unfortunately there's still a ways to go to quell the haters and doubters that seem to plague this young rapper. But there is an ambition here, that if encouraged to develop further, K Camp might just reveal himself to be more than just a guy with a bountiful catalog of hits, but one of the best southern rappers you've been sleeping on. Sometimes talent manages to hide in plain sight, but as K Camp himself taunts on the record, “Stay sleeping on me, I'm used to it!”