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Album Review: Kareem Manuel – Until Forever

Disclaimer: All views presented in this Album Review are those of the album reviewer and not of DJ Wade-O.

How Kareem Manuel Surprised Me

I hate surprises. Let me clarify; I usually hate surprises. I don’t like surprise parties, people jumping out to “surprise” me or surprise circumstances. Almost anyway you can surprise someone I’m not a fan of. I just don’t like the feeling of not knowing what’s about to happen. Since I’m not a big fan of surprises, I don’t get surprised very often.

Then there is the idea of the “pleasant surprise.” Getting more than you expected. This is the only type of surprise I do like. It’s a great feeling when you have a great time somewhere, when you either didn’t know what to expect or expected just to have a decent time. It’s even better when there’s a pleasant surprise in music, because it’s something that you can relive each time you listen to that artist, song, or album.

“Pleasant surprise” is the perfect way to describe my feelings after listening to Kareem Manuel’s new album Until Forever for the first time. I’ve followed Kareem since his days as “Katalyst.” I’ve always felt he’s had talent, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the music he has put out. I felt that his records never came together. All that changed on December 4th. Everything came together on this record and Kareem definitely surprised me. In this album review, you’ll find six pleasant surprises from Until Forever.

6 “Pleasant Surprises” from “Until Forever”

The Production

Until Forever‘s production wasn’t great in the traditional sense. It wasn’t hard beats that kept your head nodding from start to finish. It was much more clever than that. It was tailored to what Kareem was trying to do, as opposed to picking a hot beat and rapping towards that. The production was not the star of the album and it didn’t take the spotlight away from Kareem. It did what I believe it is supposed to do, and that’s support the artist. By itself the production was good, but when Kareem came on the track it was great. They worked in unison to make great art. It was beautiful to listen to.

The Balance

Kareem Manuel gave me something that I don’t get often, and that was balance. There was a wonderful balance between heavy theological themes and more real life themes. Kareem was able to transition from songs like “Hero” featuring Lecrae, to “Sin City” featuring Christon Gray effortlessly. Both have different themes but both fit into the overall picture of the album. Kareem was able to maintain this balance throughout the entire album. He gave something for every hip-hop fan.

The Lyrics

This was one of the places where I was surprised the most. Before Until Forever I wouldn’t have classified Kareem Manuel as a “lyricist.” He has stepped his game up in a huge way in this area. Lyrically this record was nuts. Earlier I raved about how great the balance was, well that is only possible if the artist is able to do some special things lyrically. Kareem was definitely special on this record. His wordplay was incredible and most importantly he was able to captivate the listener with his lyricism. With this record, Kareem Manuel has definitely become a “lyricist.”

Decipha and Caine

This surprise doesn’t have much to do with Kareem Manuel, aside from the fact that he chose them to be on the record. It is still worth mentioning though. I haven’t heard much from these two artists before this record, so when I saw them on the tracklisting, I didn’t know what to expect. To put it simply, they blew me away. Their verses were excellent and they added a lot to the project. Decipha and Caine made quite the impression with their verses and they left me wanting more from them.

The Interludes

It’s rare that the interludes on a record are worth talking about. The only time they get brought up it’s by angry fans who wish they were full-length songs. Until Forever is a completely different story. Don’t just skip over these interludes because you think they are a waste of time. These interludes were strategically used to enhance the story and the overall experience of the record. Each interlude was able to add something to the record that the songs couldn’t add, and that was a level of depth that can’t be reached in a song. The interludes allowed the listener to go deeper. Until Forever had one of the better usage of interludes that I’ve ever heard.

The Musicality

I think I should explain what I mean by musicality. I’m not just talking about production or the sound of the record. I’m talking about the overall feel of the music; the experience from listening to the record. With that being said, the musicality on Until Forever is nothing short of amazing. From the very first word I was captivated and engaged. I stayed captivated and engaged throughout the project because he excelled in all the areas I mentioned earlier. The interludes set the scene. The production created the environment. Then Kareem’s lyricism took you to the scene. This record was so much more than just music. It was a true experience. Until Forever was not an assortment of tracks, it played like one musical experience with different scenes. This record was true art.

Conclusion

To be honest, my expectations weren’t overly high coming into this record. But by the time I was done listening to it, I was a big fan of what Kareem Manuel was doing. He made real music. Music with a message, clever production and fantastic lyricism. Until Forever is real hip-hop. This is a great record and any hip-hop fan will be pleased to have this in their music library. If you’re a Kareem Manuel fan, or this is your introduction to his music, you will be pleasantly surprised by what he is doing.

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Aubrey McKay has a strong passion and love for CHH, and he uses that to write album reviews for Wadeoradio.com. He is a graduate of Southeastern University in Lakeland Florida. He currently resides in Lakeland and teaches middle school. Twitter: @ajmckay24

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