Kyle Kinane – “”I Liked His Old Stuff Better””

Grade: A-

Key Bits: “This Track is Not Called 8 Ball” “This Track is Not Called Dopeman”

Comedy is tough on people that aren’t young. Kinane, at age 38, isn’t old, but you wouldn’t guess it. In his new special, he relates himself to the elderly via buying shelled nuts and fighting a battle against them. Kinane struggles with approaching middle age in a few segments, lamenting being “closer to the end than the beginning” and “tailgating your own funeral” at one point. One of the album’s best jokes lies in how Kinane finds himself reading signs out loud when he’s driving alone, imagining his brain is running diagnostics (“weird, bored Dad shit”). Jokes about burning his laundry and throwing change in the trash make Kinane uncomfortable with how his mind is seemingly rapidly degrading.

Age works in the other direction, too. Two of the album’s best bits are semi-repressed memories from his early 20’s – one, of a house party ruined by a confusing, out of place cop, and the other about the accidentally felonious blowjob he got behind a grocery store. Rarely do stand-up specials have themes that can run through the whole special, but Kinane manages to relate nearly every joke and story to the aging process. And the few bits that don’t, including saying “God bless you” to a cat and recounting his parents searching to find his interview in an issue of “Hustler,” land just as well.

What makes Kinane unique is his voice, both in the physical and metaphorical sense. Kinane has the gruff voice of a lumberjack who just slammed down a glass of whiskey (and he very well could be). Comedy Central hired Kinane to record their promos, he’s the voice you hear in their commercials (i.e. “Next Wednesday on an all new Broad City”). And his ‘voice’ is one that’s weirdly optimistic. Although much of this special is self-deprecating, Kinane always has the choice in his humor to do mean jokes, but almost never opts to. There’s an upbeat rhythm in his voice, that grabs the listener. Even if he’s talking about coroners hitting on women at a party or dropping a brick on a frog, he has an aura to him that makes it feel like things are going to be okay. I can’t say there are many comedians like that.

“”I Liked His Old Stuff Better”” is Kinane’s third special, and it follows in the trend of pointless track titles. His first two specials had bits that were named after songs by Cheap Trick and KISS, respectively. This special is all of the songs from “Straight Outta Compton,” preceded by “This Track is Not Called [track title].” It makes remembering bits for later a little difficult, but it doesn’t give away bits like other comedians would (my favorite comedy album, John Mulaney’s “New in Town,” has a bit titled “Asian American Woman” that gives away the big punchline).

“”I Liked His Old Stuff Better”” is an excellent comedy album, that proves Kinane is one of the funniest and most interesting people in comedy today. I’ve already listened to it a second time.

If you like this, try: Marc Maron. But since anyone familiar with Kinane obviously knows Maron, I’ll say Eugene Mirman’s “God is a Twelve Year Boy With Asperger’s.” I might say that because that’s the album I jumped to after listening to this last night, but the two comedians do share a voice that’s more welcoming than most other people in stand-up.

-By Andrew McNally

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Wiz Khalifa – “Blacc Hollywood”

Grade: C-

Key Tracks: “Promises” “Stayin Out All Night”

The best hip-hop albums are either wide-ranging, embracing different emotions and musical styles (“Beyonce”), or are directly consistent, pulling all of their material from the personae of the people behind it (“Straight Outta Compton”). “Blacc Hollywood” is neither of these, and it isn’t a great hip-hop album because of it. Rather, “Blacc Hollywood” starts with a call, a semi-political, semi-social trumpeting of the new ‘Blacc Hollywood,’ before quickly diverging into inconsistent weed songs and rough-childhood ballads. “Blacc Hollywood” wants desperately to have a point, but it never does.

The biggest fault with “Blacc Hollywood” is the lack of any flow. Khalifa tries to embrace different influences with the pairing of ballad “Promises” and weed song “KK” close to the beginning, but it only comes off as two disagreeing songs that don’t fit at all. It isn’t laziness – it’s ambition and ideas, without knowing how to execute them. The ideas on “Blacc Hollywood” compete rather than complement. “House in the Hills,” a ballad about not wanting to raise his son in the world he was raised in, doesn’t sound complete with the vain club banger “We Dem Boyz” popping up three songs earlier. This early disconnect faults the album’s second half, which is more consistent but less noticeable.

Indeed, Khalifa’s writing on this album isn’t that remarkable. “We Dem Boyz” has been getting airplay since it’s release in February, but there’s really nothing to the song. It’s a glorified chorus with little change for 3:45. His personal songs are honest and gut-punching, but the others are often too predictable (look no further than “Ass Drop”). Later album track “Stayin Out All Night” is helped by a huge, fuzzy, banging beat, but it’s in the middle of a string of forgettable songs.

Some guest spots do help the album – Ty Dolla $ign shows up on two different tracks, as do fellow Taylor Gang rappers Juicy J, Chevy Woods and Project Pat. Curren$y shows up on the honest “House in the Hills,” and Nicki Minaj drops a spot on the largely excellent closer, “True Colors.” (Unfortunately, a proposed collaboration with Adele was never more than an idea – how weird would that be? Bring new meaning to “Rolling in the Deep”).

So “Blacc Hollywood” isn’t Khalifa at his best. He’s more treading water – fueling a fanbase with self-serving bangers and ballads without offering anything great or consistent. It doesn’t come to a point, and it doesn’t flow like a hip-hop album should. Khalifa sounds fine on his own, but there isn’t anything noteworthy going on around him. As confused as it is average, “Blacc Hollywood” deserves a spin or two at a house party, but little more than that.

-By Andrew McNally