Arts Desk

Kingpen Slim, Triple Beam Dreams, Reviewed

Kingpen Slim is one of D.C.’s most versatile rappers: The Adams Morgan native can craft glossy tunes for radio airplay or murky street anthems suited for the block. He's seen as authentic, aided by his gruff delivery, and the MC's on-point beat selection reveals his sensitive ear.

Yet, commercial success has eluded him so far, despite the mainstream praise that he's garnered over the years. The MC has seen some of his peers—Wale, Fat Trel, and Oddisee—make greater national strides in recent months. But Slim keeps plugging away, writing verses about his sordid past right alongside high-energy club jams.

On his new self-released album, Triple Beam Dreams, Slim raps about tough times over trunk-rattlers and midtempo grooves. On “Sweet Thunder,” Slim almost slows the pace to a halt, fusing a double-time flow with twinkling keys and a blues guitar. Then he ponders missed opportunities ("Def Jam passed, Motown too") followed by musings about new doors opening (“One day, Wale called me out the blue/Told me that the Clipse wanna put me in the crew/Damn, maybe that’ll get me out the red/Back then, crack heads used to get me out the bed"). Former Clipse rapper No Malice even makes an appearance on the standout “My Specialty." On "The Haunting," he's already imagining how to spend his first chunk of change: “First big rap check I get, I’mma get my daughter situated,” he says over contemplative piano chords.

But a dark past looms not far behind. “Can’t Stop Me,” featuring New York rapper Jim Jones, moves quickly while Slim focuses on history. “My classmates had funerals in junior high/It’s hard being 12 feeling like you’re soon to die.” Slim is more candid here than on his previous work; before, the rapper seemed more interested in delivery than content. Even his attempts at radio-friendly fare—like the ode to inebriation “Drinking and Driving," or the seedy, bombastic, Mark Henry-produced “Yeah Dat”—would pass muster with underground listeners, because he rarely strays too far from his lyrical core.

Slim's quest for mainstream recognition hasn't sacrificed his soul just yet. Triple Beam Dreams, while flashy, is also insightful, offering a glimpse into Slim's twin lives as a drug dealer and artist. Perhaps this album will bring him the attention he deserves, but if not, at least his existing fans can say they know more about him now.

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