“Every song is fucking amazing. I only wish I had never listened to it, so I could listen to it again for the first time. The production is just right, and the rapping is really fuckin tight.”
“This album is like pure nostalgia for growing up in the 90’s and even into those early romances that people get.”
These are not my words, but they might as well be because I agree. Kill Bill’s work on Ramona is some of the most listenable rap I’ve ever heard. It’s approachable, relatable, relevant, self-effacing, and fun. He spits rhyme about growing up the in the ’90s, video games, anime, young and unrequited love, self-reflection, self-doubt, and self-absorption, chasing dreams, materialism, the hip-hop game, apathy, fear, escapism, introversion, and smoking entirely too much weed.
The beats are borrowed from a variety of producers. All of them, based on what I’ve heard on Ramona, know exactly what they’re doing. The beats are all relatively downtempo, but some tracks emphasize jazz elements — like “Dream Eater”, courtesy of Yung Bae — where others are closer to the realm of glitch — “Then There’s Me”, courtesy of MURA MASA. There’s even a trap track that features all the ’90s elements (electric keys, digital chimes, saxophone) and deep bass lines and gravelly vocals you expect from the genre. That one is titled “水水水”* and comes from Kill Bill’s alter ego JINZO THE TRAP LORD.
The opener, “Backwoods”, is strong. And that’s putting it mildly. In the background, lo-fi guitar, bass, and percussion preface the track’s main beat which pushes electric keys with a low-key drum beat and sporadic horns. Lyrically, the track examine’s the artist’s life from a bird’s eye view. He talks about how he used to “play Sega Saturn and shit” and now he “smoke[s] alotta weed and it ain’t mattered a bit.” Then, he goes on about not being to keep “keep his mind on the PowerPoints”, presumably in college classes, and falling for a cute skater girl. Fast forward to the present and queue a trumpet with the chorus.
“And I’ve never been as happy as right now
But shit, I gotta cope with the fact that it dies down
‘Cause in the end I just wake up salty
Start my day with a pot of black coffee.”
The track’s not even very long, just over 3 minutes, but Kill Bill covers so much that it feels like more.
“Then There’s Me” is a quality piece of work that focuses on some of the particulars from the artist’s life, mostly growing up and figuring out how to be his own person despite a crowd of people discouraging certain things. This is conveyed subtly at the beginning of the track when we hear a group of kids say “Ohh, that’s bad.” Then, a single voice rings “No, that’s good!” One line goes,
“My feet had New Balance,
but I dressed black with Timbos.
People said, ‘he’s acting out’ but honestly I wasn’t,
I just liked droppin’ beats and cussin’.”
As he goes on, he generalizes the lesson:
“Never change for somebody
Remain True, the pains too—much
you’re too beautiful to be somebody who ain’t you.”
Clearly he figured out something that works for him.
There are dozens if not hundreds of little references that deepen my own appreciation of Kill Bill’s flow and his ability to string rhymes together. I’m sure you’ll like it too.
And just one little thing I wanted to point out. The opening sequence for “Pork” is borrowed from a hilarious, classic Cartoon Network Adult Swim show Sealab 2012. If you haven’t seen it, check it out below. It’s hilarious, and it’s from the same guy who does Archer, which is also fantastic.
Kill Bill – “Backwoods”
Kill Bill – “Then There’s Me”
Ramona download page on Bandcamp
* For the curious “水” is the Japanese character for “water”.