Tom Misch and Yussef Dayes are two pioneers of the contemporary jazz scene. The concept of the two artists collaborating sounds like a match made in heaven but in this case, the parts are greater than the whole. What Kinda Music is a valid question for an album that spans across the genres of acid jazz, hip-hop, and electronica. While there is certainly some creative experimentation, there seems to be something missing from the feel of the album as a whole.
The opening and titular track “What Kinda Music” is a strong enough start. There’s an ambient, hip hop mood trickling through the track with some interesting melodies. The track lets itself down with the lyrics, which are lacking. The same can be said about the rest of the album, which is lyrically nostalgic in a translucent way. There’s no poignancy or guttural feeling.
“Nightrider ft. Freddie Gibbs” is a chilled atmospheric track that sounds like music that might be played at a fancy late-night hotel bar. Gibbs raps about late-night drug deals and in the chorus, Misch sings: “High beam, on the dash / I be shaking you down, it’s a wrap / So easily, so easily.”
“Tidal Wave” features some more interesting drumming from Dayes. Things pick up here and carry on throughout the rest of the album. The rhythm is playful and Dayes’ percussive solos find their own space. This is true for the tracks that follow, particularly “Kyiv” which has a somewhat funkier feel.
“Lift Off” with its funky vibes and experimental instrumentation is an album highlight. Dayes and Misch flirt with genre and make a case for contemporary jazz. While the track is musically great, it perhaps plays as more of a jam session than a track for the listener. There’s a sultry indulgence to it which makes for good background music, but leaves little room for the listener to engage.
Although What Kinda Music is impressive musically, it does seem to be lacking something. Lyrically, it makes no impassioned statements and while this is not a requirement of music, the lack of passion throughout makes it feel like the listener has been left out of the production of the record. The result is an album that is enjoyable enough to listen to, but never really commands our attention.