With sizable list of all-star collaborators, Kid Ink's third studio album showcases his ability to make crossover hits for mass appeal.
Last year in March, Kid Ink reached a big milestone for a new artist: his single “Show Me” featuring Chris Brown went double Platinum. From grinding as an independent rapper to becoming a major label draw with his RCA debut, My Own Lane, Ink has proven worthy of the title "radio hitmaker." “Show Me” took over the rap game in 2014 that the response allowed him to serve up another one for the airwaves with “Body Language,” which combined the R&B powers of Usher and Tinashe for a sultry, fun record that examines how females work it. Though rap fans have been keeping tabs on Ink since Up & Away, mainstream listeners took notice after the success of “Show Me” and “Body Language.” The pop-rap lane has become crowded these days—Iggy Azalea, Wiz Khalifa, Flo Rida are some of the big names—but Ink is quickly becoming a marquee artist for the genre closely intertwined with youth culture. Full Speed, his second major label output, doesn’t explore his personal life enough, but rather focuses on living fast and how we should never slow down.
What you’ll notice from jump is Ink’s guest features, who range from R&B's gatekeepers (R. Kelly, Trey Songz, Chris Brown) to hip-hop’s new guard (Migos, Young Thug, DeJ Loaf) to all-star producers (DJ Mustard, Metro Boomin’, Stargate). His famous friends do come in handy in giving Full Speed a mixtape vibe, where the plug and play mentality of placing talents on different beats gives Ink his moment to shine. Especially on tracks like the club-friendly “Hotel” and the dancey, synth heavy “Be Real”, Ink distinguishes himself with rewind-ready lines that’ll have you screaming them at parties everywhere. For rap heads, Ink and Machine Gun Kelly trade ferocious verses about pushing their limitations on “Show Must Go On.” Over bombastic production, the former 2012 XXL Freshmen go head-to-head and the results are thrilling.
Although Ink does have highlights on Full Speed, the downside comes from his ability to not stand out at times. Much like the chameleon effect of borrowing an artist’s style, Ink’s melodic approach and lazy rhymes are often lost when he’s paired with the likes of a Trey Songz, R. Kelly or Migos. It feels manufactured; he shape-shifts to match his contemporaries, which comes off as mimicking more than challenging himself to progress as a songwriter. Those moments when he actually does zone in on a particular topic (“Cool Back” about trendsetting in fashion, “Round Here” about repping his neighborhood), he sounds ready to take the driver’s seat to supply us with more A1 bangers.
While Iggy is vigorously defending her merit in hip-hop, Ink’s Bat Gang supporters have shown love to his career of blending the qualities of pop and rap that’s a formula all too familiar. Even if you’re a fan of lyrically conscious rappers J. Cole or Big K.R.I.T., Ink has been leaving a lasting impression with his string of hits that places him as one of the best among his generation of MCs. His destination of chart-topping sensation is in plain sight.