Atychiphobia. The term is defined as “the fear of failure”. Curtiss King’s new album, “Atychiphobia” is an exploration of the the effects of failure on the psyche of a someone who’s motivation is success. This is not a new perspective in Hip Hop as we’ve become accustomed to the “hustler” narrative for the last two plus decades. Many of the most iconic rap artists have leaned on the hustler formula for success and it’s become a staple in the genre. The 90’s were dominated by fantastic tales of drug dealers trying to create empires through the crack game. Somehow the narrative evolved to the point of novelty and Hip Hop entered the “Bling” era. An era that seems to have become a part of the DNA of contemporary Hip Hop music and one of the key factors as the why the genre has become stale.
However, there has been a shift of conscious bubbling beneath the superficial surface of Hip Hop. Plug One of De La Soul once said, “The Underground’s about not being exposed/ So you need to take your naked a$$ home and put on some clothes” Underground is now more about being under-exposed in this file sharing, social networking age. Curtiss King could be viewed as victim of under-exposure forced to find relevance under the gaze of the popular. I contend this argument because King actually thrives when eyes are averted elsewhere and ears are tuned in to his musically offerings. King claims to have found his calling and believes he’s meant to “Make music that’s therapy to others”
Connected through a voice over narrative by an unidentified speaker who pieces together the definition of term, Atychiphobia is one of the most transparent Hip Hop albums to date. Many critics hailed Kendrick Lamar’s honesty provided on “good kid M.A.A.D. city” and would be remiss not to do the same with Curtiss’ album. Ironically King and Lamar share a loose affiliation through Ab Soul(who King has produced for) and the late Alori Joh(who appears posthumously on the track “Freshness”)
This is significant because King although he currently reps the Inland Empire actually has roots in the Carson and Compton areas. He seems to share much of the urban-globalized views as the Black Hippy Crew. These are the kids that grew up in a world that expanded beyond the confines of their region because the internet, television and social networking allowed them to gather a much broader sense of the world. The narrative of the street has changed and in turn we have an explosion of different perspectives evolving in urban spaces. King’s debut album is yet another example of what may be an indication of the renaissance of the genre of Rap Music.
Curtiss King displays a conversational rhyme scheme that echoes an early Kanye West with the wit of Phonte. He carefully tip-toes the line between confidence and cockiness and much of the tone of his rhymes indicate that he’s trying to convince himself as much as the audience. But it’s King’s ability to let you in on his everyday life that ultimately makes him appealing. There is honesty in the core of his content that’s rarely explored by new Rap artists trying to make names for themselves. One artist that comes to mind is J. Cole but how bad can life truly be when you’re signed to Jay-Z’s label. One issue fans had with Cole’s debut is that much of his content sounded like complaining. Cole has already “made it” whereas King is just now getting his footing. Offerings like “Hella Close” demonstrate King’s humility and confidence simultaneously, “Back then they didn’t want me/ Cause I had the same clothes/ Just came from the thrift shop/ Now they on me in the same clothes”
On the bittersweet track “The Fear of Failure” which sounds like a sample from a Spike Lee movie- We find Curtiss spiting “I see the light at the end of the tunnel won’t be derailed/ As long as my mama proud I guess I really never failed”. The song sets the tone for the album as listeners are taken on a journey through what seems to be everyday life for King.
Curtiss gets help from rising star producer Hit Boy on his the remix to his single “Ratchets Still Jockin” which also features Glasses Malone. King with funky 80s sit-com infused production from Tae Beast spits, “EBT filled up with her cabinets/Now my backpack filled up with snacks in the studio where I’m maxing” The record is yet another example of Curtiss taking something personal and making it not only accessible to listeners but entertaining. Curtiss is at his best when he begins to take inventory of his condition and what he could potentially do to change it. Tracks like “Post it Note” find Curtiss recalling the first time he met his real life girlfriend. The song is much more than a typical rap ballad and finds Curtiss actually telling the true story of their first encounter.
Another example is “Doorknobs” which features a very deep promise to his mother. Curtiss gives his mother a metaphorical “doorknob” to a mansion as a symbol of what he intends to do for her once he makes it. We also get the very introspective “Sade.Badu.Jill” which finds King exploring his purpose not only as a rap artist but a a human being. The way in which Curtiss seems to talk his way through his life and to his life is perhaps his most endearing quality. The album is available for download on itunes now.
-Eric Montgomery (@E_MONT_3)