by Nick Hanover
All throughout Me Right Now, Cory Kendrix’s first album under the KNDRX moniker, the singer-producer and his cohorts express their frustrations with waiting. “I don’t wanna wait forever,” proclaims Povi on “Wait Forever,” with KNDRX telling someone, quite likely a version of himself, “You keep trying my patience” on “SAY GXXDBYE.” As the languid, soft sounds of the production make clear, though, KNDRX isn’t in a hurry and you shouldn’t mistake mistake the album (or its title) as a demand for immediate pleasures. This is instead an exploration of personal growth, or the lack thereof in some cases.
In the three years between Kendrix’s last release and Me Right Now, the singer uprooted himself to Colorado, physically leaving behind the already geographically fractured LNS Crew for new opportunities and some semblance of maturity. Kendrix explains in Me Right Now’s liner notes that the work is “an open window into my life” the product of a stressful move and the struggles of dealing with “the insecurities of a relationship and fatherhood, of following my dreams while juggling real life.” The EP’s predecessor Worth Something hinted at those insecurities as well, and paved the way for Kendrix to abandon hip hop braggadocio for self-loathing R&B but Me Right Now and Kendrix’s rebranding make it something more permanent and evocative.
Kendrix makes this change apparent not just in the more melodic vocal approach but in the claustrophobic emotional intensity of every facet of the production, from the raw, blunt lyrics to the hurt and wounded feeling of the music itself. The aptly named “Pain” hits with the density of a throbbing toothache, Kendrix’s voice quavering over seismic bass and gasping samples. “Pain” never provides a hook or some other pretty distraction from the open wound of Kendrix’s need, it instead forces you to stare right into the hurt alongside its creator.
When Me Right Now does step closer to radio friendly pop, the result is still subversive and disorienting, like “Stay Blessed” and its unexpected drops disrupting the expected flow to better emphasize the fragile, hollowed out timbre of Kendrix’s voice. Or the way Povi and Kendrix approach rhythm like some melting Dali clocks on “Wait Forever,” approximating the torturous tease of a lover, arousal building to a point where it might spill over into rage rather than lust. It’s not simply that these songs are moody and weird, it’s that they instill auditory vertigo, drawing you in so subtly you don’t even question how wobbly everything is and assume this is just a fact of life now.
The point there seems to be that this is how growth hit Kendrix himself, not as a sudden freight train of responsibilities but a sneaky rearrangement of his entire life and purpose. Things that maybe used to matter more, like partying and the pursuit of fame, melted away and the new priorities leapt straight from discomforting to natural. And yet the surreality of that never totally went away, nor did the frustration it prompted. It simply forced a new kind of approach. Me Right Now triumphs because it makes that transition organic for the listener as well, effortlessly evoking the way we wake up one day to discover we’re not the same person we were or even ever thought we could be.
Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Ovrld as well as Loser City, where he mostly writes about comics. You can also flip through his archives at Comics Bulletin, which he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culture, where he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with his friends and enemies on twitter: @Nick_Hanover