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Kipp Stone | 66689 BLVD Prequel Album Review

The phrase “existential dread” conjures all sorts of grim symbolism, but if you let Kipp Stone tell it, the reality is a lot more mundane. Coasting over the lithe strings and understated percussion of  “Ambigram Theory,” the Cleveland rhymer turns a messy home and a passive Netflix session into a portrait of muted desperation: “I tend to spiral when I’m left on idle/That fight or flight mode got niggas feeling right at home/Fast food bags, same show on repeat/Just a bid for control we battle uncertainty.” 

That purgatorial existence shutters in and out of focus on 66689 BLVD Prequel, a new project coated in self-analysis, lush jazz and hints at personal transformation. Distilled through precise details and traces of wry humor, it’s a rap character study, with Kipp using introspection and everyday mundanities to create compelling cinema.

While Kipp speaks on harrowing topics such as suicidal thoughts on “Ambigram Theory,” he’s just as affecting when he channels everyman anxieties. He eschews self-mythology, opting instead for earthly stories of insecurity, self-doubt and evolution. On the intro for the project, he sorts through the logistics of being a broke boy on the dating scene. Then on “Lakeshore,” he laments about the state of his rap career for a study of jealousy. With a breathless flow, Kipp uses “Passivist Prayer” for a breakdown on the behaviors that lead to what a lot of folks call a “shut down.” He layers dense rhyme schemes with a build up to an unceremonious goodbye to a friend: “If my boundary was bold and openly set/I would I hope I could be more vocal emotional more in check/When you notice a shift in tone or my woeful sulking expression I cloak in/When trust is broken it won’t ever be reset/I just ghost you and say ’fasho’ as a token of my respect.” 

He threads his emotions and couplets with spurts of sing-song hooks that blend elegantly into the meditative soundscapes, which share a muted aesthetic. There’s a tranquility to the instrumentation, but he switches up the tempos enough to keep you engaged. 

Rendered with agility and nuance, Kipp Stone’s verses are quite sharp, and the varied cadences keep 66689 BLVD Prequel pulsing with subtle electricity. The writing cuts deep, but on the hooks, he lapses into hackneyed self-help platitudes; a phrase like “protect my peace” is used a bit too often to be suitable for a hook (“Passivist Prayer”). He leans on cliches (“grass is greener on the other side”) on the project, but they rarely stop him from articulating himself with poignance and grace. 

Although Kipp is a master of generating worry and self-doubt, 66689 BLVD Prequel still features measures of catharsis with a level of peace you’d find on Faygo Baby. On his “Kill the Father Freestyle,” he connects thoughts of suicide with everyday social anxiety before rediscovering a cause that grounds him. “There’s a man overseas and heard me sing/Said he used to feel deserted/Now he don’t ‘cause of me and it’s worth it even if it’s just one person I could reach/Fuck a sermon, fuck the preacher, fuck the surface, take it deeper/We can search and we can reach and find the purpose and the meaning,” he raps, with his rapid-fire delivery evoking a man chasing his thoughts and running out of breath. 

Moving through a labyrinth of emotions and sensations, Kipp may or may not have found that peace and understanding he’s been searching for — at least not permanently. But 66689 BLVD Prequel gives off the impression that he’s closer than ever.

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