The New Orleans hip-hop scene has enjoyed an interesting dichotomy over the last few years: you’re either rapping about partying and booze over pseudo-bounce tunes, or you’re crafting politically charged bars about the Crescent City’s post-Katrina plight. Rarely do these two local paths converge; you’re either Curren$y or Jay Electronica.
Ninth Ward native Koan is a representative of the latter, providing insightful lyrics about police brutality, the state of hip-hop and the socioeconomic struggles plaguing the N.O. over the backdrop of throwback beats that hearken back to the mid-‘90s golden age. His album, Chronicles of a Dying Breed, is an ode to the foundation of hip-hop: battle raps over live, sample-less instrumentation. Koan attacks each beat with a fervor and passion that sometimes leaves the beat behind, causing double-timed lyrics to fly over a casual listener’s head.
Dying Breed flies out of the gate, with the heartfelt, dramatic “Rising Sun (warm-up)” and the jazz-infused “Employed.” On “Employed,” Koan takes a David Simon-like approach to the New Orleans streets, providing a sweeping-yet-intimate look at the problems facing the impoverished and drug-addicted. Koan’s strongest suit is his ability to weave rhymes in unexpected ways while still telling poignant stories. On “Made 2 Murder,” Koan raps that he’s a “legendary lyrical killer with styles sicker than serial pedophilia.” Try saying that five times fast.
Koan’s storytelling is on full display on the hilarious and relatable two-part “Casual Encounters.” The MC provides more moments of levity with “Get the F*ck Off the Stage,” the side-splitting satire about vapid N.O. party tunes. Chronicles of a Dying Breed is well sequenced, so those lighter tunes break the seriousness of Koan’s subject matter, offering a complete album that’s playable from beginning to end. If we’re all lucky, Koan is part of a breed of MC that’s never going away.