Mature lyrics and chill-out tracks: Anthony Kannon, a young rapper from Upstate New York, leads the way in his hometown Ithaca and is ready to cross borders. Known for his professionalism and skill that go far beyond his years, it’s his lyrical tone combined with cadences that make you both feel ready to party, but also hold you back and make you think. In a subtle way, yet very in-depth, Anthony guides you through what it’s like to live in his mind or walk in his shoes. ‘Color Blind’, his debut album released in September 2018, acts as the introduction into his world, where subjects like drug abuse, police brutality, and family issues stemming from his past are conveyed. While the 11-track album-project got spectacular reviews and regarded as one of the best and most introspective albums from his area, it’s the revelation of dark pages of his life that attracted attention, underlined in its title track where he indicates that “street life gets lonely”. The expression makes sense when listening to the lyrics of his songs. It’s already rough in ‘Blue’ where he talks about how he borrowed a friend’s skateboard but then witnessing how it got stolen for heroin. But what’s way worse is that he actually experienced getting shot – two bullets on his back – on the death day of The Notorious B.I.G. (stated by Kannon in his highlight single ‘Ghost’). His past experiences though did not stop him from his artistry – offering some flavors of Eminem (‘Dead or Alive’), Mac Miller-traits (‘Dark Liquor’) and more directly Aaliyah in his cover version of ‘One in a Million’.
Even though his music has many urban influences, it’s especially what he’s able to bring from his own that shape his individuality in hip-hop. This is carried on in ‘Blur’, a collaborative album he released with Meech Booker, a rapper, friend of Anthony’s, and Ithaca native as well. Just like Anthony, Meech is also known for his lyrical content, going into themes of violence and death and the desire to escape these routes, most notably in the music video for his song ‘Rebel’, where he tries to cross over death and evil thoughts, with a man dressed in black portrayed as his biggest enemy but turning out to be himself. Similar vibes give his 80s inspired music video for his song ‘Me & You’ (feat. LeLe), acting out a murder out of jealousy, admitting in ‘COLD’, in a big city life visual, his problems seeing his lover with another: “Lately I’ve been feeling I can’t help myself / I can’t stand to see you with nobody else”. Having content that’s on the edge, Meech also shows in ‘Slide For The Gang’ the survival as he “came from the gutter”, explaining himself to the world, with the word ‘misunderstood’ tattooed on his left arm that shows sympathy. While both Anthony and Meech worked together more often (‘Hitchcock’), they decided to collaborate together in ‘Blur’ – including a few solo tracks from both of them. Let’s find out what both Anthony and Meech can offer in their 10-track project.
The album begins with the two Ithaca-rappers releasing their anger in short but sweet ‘Tired’. The track attracts attention with spaced-out sounds and lyric-wise opens up their struggles about carrying the weight of hard lives, and explaining themselves especially for the unbelievers: “You two-faced looking four-eyed, all these snakes, playing both sides.” In addition, ‘Tired’ makes notice of itself with its music video released in August 2019: Different scenarios of street life is smushed in a 3 minute visual. Directed by Niko Neferis, the video starts off with Meech and Anthony sitting on a bench outside of a basketball court. Chilling and doing homework, an intruder interrupts and holds a gun on Meech’s head so he can rob him. History repeats itself, as later on, they both put masks to hide their faces, Meech pulling the trigger on a passerby, shooting dice later, then both being picked up by a car that pulls up at the end of the video. The message is described as being in a circle, being born in this world and soaked in as if they’re pulled in a certain destiny. As Tupac once said: “I didn’t choose the thug life, the thug life chose me.”
The entire ‘Blur’ LP goes deep in into that world, explaining the listener the fate they have to face each day. Sometimes in a gloomy and sad tone, like in ‘Stuck in My Ways’, where drugs and suicide, as well as relationship issues, turn the album in a dark corner supported with mellow guitar strings. These kinds of sorrowful moments continue on throughout the album, from Meech’s downbeat ‘IF Trees Could TLK’, to ‘Break-Up’, describing a love rollercoaster from breaking up to making up, to a thoughtful ‘Heartless’ that feels like a solo walk of a lone wolf pouring his heart out, with the support of piano and trap sounds in the background. ‘Goofy’, on the other hand, lights up the project with funny rap lines and a danceable party mode in a mixtape-styled flow – and you might see double with the crazy wobble effects in the music video.
Moreover, ‘Blur’ also offers some hard and rhythmic beats to mix up the direction. ‘On My Way’, for example, one of the highlights of the album and solely performed by Anthony, stands out for the use of different rap techniques and funny yet creative lines (“holy moly guacamole”). In addition, the way how he describes his DNA feels like a nod to Kendrick Lamar’s ‘DNA‘ track from his album ‘DAMN.’ Another highlight of the album is ‘Big Kannon’ – starting off with a chorus, like a church choir, then blended with hard beats. Anthony gives his all with a solid rap performance like a level A rapper. Just like in ‘Last Days’ as well, where both Meech and Anthony rap in tempo and divide their parts like an on-and-off switch.
With many ups and downs, ‘Blur’ then ends with yet another serious taste in ‘Mydemonswontletmelive’: “I loved you for who you are but you took that shit for granted, I don’t really understand it” – Anthony and Meech play around with their voices to deliver emotion in different layers. A dramatic taste to it with a dark and rhythmic flow. This, however, makes the final track of the album one of the best.
The content of ‘Blur’ is filled with 10 tracks that offer different shapes and layers. Some layers go beyond and deep into sub-topics of street life like drugs, alcohol, suicide and criminality. Some other tracks though speak out on love and heartbreak and, to lighten up here and there, switching to other themes like partying, going out with friends or basically having fun. And just like the album title’s name, it’s indeed a blur: From dark to darker, in search of some light, then entering the grey zone, but still finding a middle in between. Furthermore, both Anthony and Meech know how to divide their parts without anyone trying to outshine the other. Aside from that, the whole project reminds of early tapes by famous rappers, just before they blew up. This makes ‘Blur’ a promising start for Meech and Anthony, and for a new generation of rap as well.
Full Track List:
IF Trees Could TLK
On My Way
Stuck in my Ways