Hip-hop is protest music at its heart, springing forth from the African-American experience of the late '70s. Its evocation of cars, guns, drugs, money, and violence was initially an expression of black lives rather than the rampant materialism it evolved into.

Today's hip-hop culture can be a case of putting the cart before the horse, being obsessed with status and celebrity but missing any kind of real message. It's created a schism in the hip-hop community, with one side chasing glamour and bling, while the other holds to the more politically-conscious spirit of early hip-hop. Call it 'trap' vs. 'cloud rap' if you're looking for some shorthand.

With this dichotomy in place, it's easy for rappers and producers to shoot too far in the other direction, shoehorning political messages and virtue signaling into every track. They veer so far into a substance that they forget about style, and end up with beats and flows as interesting as flavorless oatmeal.

Isn't it possible to have smart, socially-aware music that still bangs and grooves?

Kayo Genesis is here to tell you that it is, in fact, possible. The Palmdale, CA artist has been steadily rolling out singles with a social conscience but also a personal voice and perspective. And, most importantly, a killer beat and a wicked, razor-sharp flow.

Kayo Genesis' early single, "Woke," helped bring him to wider attention, for good reason. Genesis raps about society's evolution with an incessant barrage of fast raps, taking down and raising up everything and everybody in the span of four minutes, over a spartan beat that's both old-school and frighteningly futuristic at the same moment.



"Woke" seems vital as Genesis seems to value a fair and just society, while also taking a skeptical stance on today's slacktivists and haters. It's funny that privileged keyboard warriors can't see the irony in talking trash to a young black man making good for himself. What was that about privilege being invisible?

Genesis' raps never get too-serious or bogged down with their message. Most of all, Kayo Genesis' music is fun. And often, funny as hell, like with "Distance." The video starts off with a very pushy woman interrupting Kayo's zen. He lays into a mellow slow-groove takedown about serial over-sharers. Anyone who's been cornered by some hyperactive troll on Adderall at a house party will know this feeling all too well.



Kayo Genesis isn't just a punchline, though. His beats bang. Hard. He's got what it takes to truly take over mainstream hip-hop if people can get out of their Drake/XXXtentacion Spotify algorithm wormholes. Listen to "Cinema," a moody slow-burning epic, with beats as hard and heavy as shipwreck war cannons at the bottom of some bay and a minimal, restrained melody.

Genesis has nu-skool sensibilities and aesthetics but they're rooted in old-school hip-hop. Things never get bogged down or boring, things are always flowing and shifting and changing in Genesis' music, but he never relies on special effects or gimmicks to make his music more marketable. It's a rare talent to be able to take what's good about Trap music but not get so bogged down in digitalia that it sounds like the sonic version of a Jerry Bruckheimer movie.



Kayo Genesis' music is somewhere between early Wu-Tang and Young Thug, and any rap lover who falls anywhere on that spectrum will find something to flip over. He's only got one EP so far, last year's Bad Sushi, so it should be beyond-fascinating to see where this bright young talent goes next! We Are: The Guard are here for it!



J. Simpson occupies the intersection between criticism, creativity, and academia. Based out of Portland, Or., he is the author of Forestpunk, an online journal/brand studying the traces of horror, supernatural, and the occult through music, fashion and culture. He plays in the dreamfolk band Meta-Pinnacle with his partner Lily H. Valentine, with whom he also co-founded Bitstar Productions, a visual arts collective focused on elevating Pop Culture to High Art.