• Tristan Acker

FRENCH CONNECTION: Notiz Yong and DJ Kali team up on new album “Next Stop, Nantes”

It’s a joke among American classic rap fans that Europeans keep the torch alive. Frankly, I’m surprised projects like Next Stop, Nantes don’t happen more often given how strong that cultural connection is.

Per Nantes, France -based beatmaker DJ Kali: ‘I am passionate about American rap. A couple years ago I came across the “Cheveux longs & Chevrolet #5” music video with Duardo, a French rapper known for his west coast influence and an it I heard Notiz, this American Rapper with perfect diction and flow. I added him on Facebook, offered him some beats and one thing led to another and we decided to make a collaborative album despite the distance and language differences. He was recording on his end and I tirelessly modified the 808s, or any snare or vocals that were too loud and any smaller sound details that arose on my side. It took time and hindsight [to get the project right], to be proud of the result. It’s been a real experience to work in common direction and to adapt. Big shout out to Notiz Yong.”

Notiz Yong of Redlands in California’s San Bernardino metro area (an hour east of Los Angeles for those less familiar) adds, “he [Kali] originally wanted to work on a song… but once I heard his production, I pushed for a EP and eventually we kept creating and decided a 10 track project at least would make all this time seem worth the while…Took us about a year and then some to complete it, recording, and mixing but we feel great about the outcome and hope everyone gets to experience this.”

Kali told me he uses FL studio and Omnisphere among other programs and gear, plus a “lot of passion”. You can hear it in the details of the music.

The haunting insistence of “Runnin’ Ma Mouth” reminds me of “Break Ya Neck” from Dr. Dre and Busta Rhymes. Notiz’s flow on “Die Now” is impressive, the vibes are Eminem in his prime. “Tired” after “Die Now” makes me realize a few things – no album has felt this way to me since The Slim Shady LP. The working class frustration, the venomous barsy darkness, the humanity and the laser focused venting. Notiz Yong welcomes you to hell, an arena he knows all too well. Notiz Yong is like the Bane (think The Dark Knight Rises) of bad mood rap – he is expert at this and each song reminds us that 2020’s bleak territory is very much his lyrical turf. Notiz Yong has BEEN grumpy.

“Ride” is the album’s rare moment of chill respite; Kali’s particular use of sirens and keys on “Ride” and the album closer “Fat Man” reminds me of one of my favorite electronic music groups Little Dragon. “Smile That’s Fake” dwells on the topic of two-facedness and the disappointing behavior of people in a dog-eat-dog world, a common theme for his works.

"Last Beef" has Notiz and Kali channeling Gang Starr with vibes and powerful drum swings – until about a minute in where Kali starts to bring in the machine gun style percussion change-up. The effect is nice and real-time evolutionary.

“I don’t care if you don’t get what I’m saying / long as I know my heart’s in the right place”

“Stereotype” sees Notiz’ multi-lingual commentary about people making presumptions about each other, particular due to superficial reasons like ethnicity. Its anti-colonial, progressive commentary might be my favorite essay on this album. “All the Money” reminds me of Notiz’ bouts of fantasy on songs like “Millionaire at Thirteen” from his watershed Dear Rappers in its musing about the fantasy of abundance and the reality of misspending, and the desire to intoxicate life’s pain away.

Something that strikes me about this record is that Notiz Yong as a beatmaker has similar sensibilities to DJ Kali, further making sense out of their diverse and disparate team up. They both dig dark melodies and menacing drums, beats that gradually creep up on and surround you like a mugger in a shadowed alley. The album is dark and smart, hard and ferocious while still often feeling druggy and chill – the immaculate production gives new wings to Notiz Yong’s thoughtful snarl; knock this international rap moment a few times.

Tristan "Tanjint Wiggy" Acker is a staff writer for Zus Entertainment, a Jooseboxx and Untapped Hip-Hop contributor, and member of the Inland Empire, California based nerdculture hip-hop group the West Coast Avengers

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