Kid Ink’s “My Own Lane” is his own sell-out album

In case you hadn’t heard, The L.A. rap scene has been making a comeback lately–with a vengeance. And with acts like Future pairing that West Coast swagger with a refreshing willingness to push the boundaries of conventional music, that scene has never been more vibrant.

Take the “hipster rap” label and wear it with pride, I say. If hipster rap means hearing less of the same obnoxious songs, with the same five beats about going to the same damn club to attempt to pick up the same damn girls with the same damn nonsense about poppin’ bottles like they don’t cost a cool mortgage these days, then I’m all for it.

“But wait!” I can hear some of you saying. Surely enjoying simple, banal hip-hop isn’t a bad thing, and one could find a place in their heart to enjoy some non-thinking bumping and grinding and every now and then, right? Excellent point, fictional person! No, not every new rapper has to blow up the box and reinvent the wheel to be considered good.

Album art for 'My Own Lane'
Album art for ‘My Own Lane’

Kid Ink, who has more or less admitted that he does NOT want to reinvent the wheel, is quite content putting out the crowd pleasing numbers. After all, he DID get his start as a producer, making a lot of those same crowd-pleasing beats. But if creativity isn’t what he was aiming for, then the least he could do is not be so dang middle-of-the-road boring for an entire album.

After all that dazzling potential the Kid demonstrated on indie debut “Up & Away,” “My Own Lane” feels like a disappointingly safe album. Deep down, it’s no doubt that he’s secretly been most comfortable churning out the most conventional beats.

It has its share of highlights, though. Kid Ink’s ear for a good hook shows in some of the album’s stronger moments. Opening track “Hello World” has a damn infectious, swelling beat that doubles both as the intro and the main chorus, putting Kid Ink’s best assets to work at once: his talent for blending hard hitting beats with melodic singing. And when those elements come together just right, it’s almost enough to make you forget that Kid Ink’s kinda lousy at this whole rapping thing.

The guest verses courtesy of Tyga on the otherwise uneventful “Iz U Down,” King Los on the otherwise clunky “No Option” (seeing a trend here?), and even the ones doled out by Chris Brown on the album highlights “Show Me” and “Main Chick,” just stand out to make Kid Ink’s flow look dull by comparison.

The tracks where Kid Ink alone carries the vocal duties feel like empty moments that go on entirely too long. After the halfway point–save for one stellar vocal performance by Elle Varner on “No Miracles”–there’s precious little worth recommending.

Beneath the ‘tude and the uninspired mash-up of bro-tastic clubbing anthems, Kid occasionally shows flecks of that old talent of his. He does have a gift for making insanely catchy beats and producing great songs, and after years of doing just that for other mediocre rappers, you couldn’t blame him for deciding to cash in to get his own piece of the pie. You just sorta wished he’d waited a few albums before opting to sell-out.

Kid Ink

My Own Lane

(January 17th, 2014)

RCA Records

Grade: C-