Hailing from the same state and packing the same musical skills as North Carolina rapper J. Cole, the unit known as Kooley High has returned with their latest tribute to the rap game. Serving as the group’s first full-length release since their Heights EP in 2015, Never Come Down shines as a testament of how their collective skills have evolved and strengthened over the past few years.
While the hip-hop world continues to evolve, Kooley High has consistently crafted and released quality content ever since their conception back in 2008. Originally beginning as a group of like-minded hip-hop lovers at NC State, they developed into an ensemble with the talent and skills to make major waves in the music scene.
The gang is comprised of 5 different creatives. Tab-One and Charlie Smarts take-on the mics, while Sinopsis, Foolery and DJ Digitz handles the production. Since everything they need to construct their craft is in-house, Kooley High is able to set themselves apart from the competition. They work flawlessly as a collective, but still realize that there is room for both the individual artist and the collective group to flourish. For example, Kooley High alumna Rapsody used to be a pivotal part of the roster before she left to focus on her own booming career. This rare characteristic truly makes Kooley High special, and it shows in their music.
While we have seen impressive content from all these members in the past, it is quite apparent that Never Come Down is a platform to reach out to a wider audience and to flex their fully-sharpened skills. Tab-One and Charlie Smarts seem to be at the top of their game as they trade bar after bar with their hand-off flow on tracks like “More Than Money”, a track that is as fun as it is catchy. There is also an appearance of the duo’s singing abilities on songs such as “Voila” that sees the gang taking an uncommon love-song approach.
It was clear that with this release Kooley High was setting the bar high, as they decided to connect with one of the greatest producers of all time, 9th Wonder. However, one would think that bringing in a master such as him would heavily influence the album’s overall sound, but the approach he took with his executive producing roll was more laid-back. This allowed more room for Sinopsis, Foolery, and DJ Digitz to create freely, creating a perfect atmosphere for the artists to shine. We can see this on tracks like “We Don’t Care” where the upbeat and airy melody creates the perfect pocket for Tab-One and Charlie Smarts to fit their rhymes, or on the title track “Never Come Down” where the chorus combined with the production paints the perfect picture of the overall theme and feel of the project.
Overall, the vibe of this album is uplifting, positive and optimistic. Many of the tracks seem as though the group was simply having fun and staying true to themselves. This shows on tracks like “Grinning”. This is a special moment on the album as we hear a mini-reunion between Kooley High and Rapsody. “Got me smilin’, I be grinnin’ from ear to ear” Charlie repeats on the chorus alongside Rapsody and Tab-One as they spit comical rhymes. Whether it’s “Grinning” or “Action” where the two MC’s compel their listeners to get motivated, it is apparent that the group wanted to send a message on this project. A positive message that is sonically bumpin’.
Many years after the group began, we finally see the accumulation of their experience come together in one special moment in Never Come Down. While it might need time to be digested at first, the inspirational and authentic journey that Kooley High forms is most definitely worth a listen, and should not be slept on. Their production built out of chopped soul samples balanced with impeccable turntable mixing by DJ Digitz brings you back to a simpler time in hip-hop. Their sound is unquestionably superb and is a refreshing splash of cold water to the face in a world filled with mumble rap.