Nicolay & Kay: Time:Line
Nicolay Music

Nicolay complements his strong 2006 opus Here with Time:Line, an even bolder collaboration with MC Kay Jackson (The Foundation). The new album's sound is rich and full as the pair augment their already dense sound with contributions from guests like Stokley Williams (Mint Condition), Chip Fu (Fu-Schnickens), PZ (Ideal), Oh No (Stones Throw), Myth & S1 (Strange Fruit Project), The Luv Bugz, and others. A product of intercontinental and cross-country file exchanges between Nicolay (first in his native Holland and then in newly-adopted North Carolina ) and Houston resident Kay, Time:Line lyrically traces the trajectory of one person's life from birth and childhood into adulthood, death, and even the afterlife. The album's sequenced so that the last note of one song seamlessly leads into the next. It's a travelogue in an even more important sense, however, as it stylistically distills multiple decades (back to the ‘70s) into an effervescent hybrid.

The biographical story line is mirrored in the sonic evolution that transpires over the course of the album. The title cut bursts out of the gate with Kay aggressively throwing down over a barreling pulse. Verses in “Blizzard” then wax nostalgic about birth and early childhood but the song's more memorable for its soul-funk party vibe and invocation of soul groups like The Temptations. Moving from the ‘70s to ‘80s, “Through The Wind” (labeled the “Elton John joint” by its creators) weds a “Bennie & The Jets” keyboard line with Prince-styled vocalizing. Gleaming synth chords and sultry female vocals warm the Dabryesque flow of “Tight Eyes,” and Nicole Hurst's voice similarly brightens the mellow hip-hop soul of “The Lights.” A sample reminiscent of Edgar Winter's “Frankenstein” collides with police sirens and MCs in the slamming hip-hop tune “Grand Theft Auto,” and hints of Afrobeat and dancehall surface in “The Gunshot.” Perhaps it's the tragic costs of violence that inspire self-reflection of the kind heard in “I've Seen Rivers” (inspired by Langston Hughes' “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”), which extends the poem's theme into a meditation on generational cycles, and “When You Die,” which lyrically explores the anguish of mourning loved ones. By prominently incorporating soul and funk into its hip-hop mix, Time:Line is rendered considerably more powerful as a result.

February 2008