Kari Faux was born and raised in Little Rock, Ark. and spent a fair amount of her young adult life back home after dropping out of art school in Atlanta. Her laid-back, conversational vocals skip over dreamy, reverb-laced instrumentals. It comes as no surprise that Childish Gambino (aka Donald Glover) noticed her debut mixtape Laugh Now, Die Later and remixed one of her tracks and put it on his own 2014 mixtape (STN MTN). Nearly two years later, Faux appeared as a featured artist on Glover’s 2016 album “Awaken, My Love!” and continued to work with other esteemed producers and artists such as Matt Martians and Isaiah Rashad.
Faux’s newest EP, CRY 4 HELP, combines elements of jazz, R&B and hip hop with a distinct lyrical constancy and earnestness that rivals that of SZA. Faux’s flow is reminiscent of that of Noname, but Faux moves slower and parses out her concerns about loneliness, desire and inefficacy without much concern for the listeners that she may lose along the way. This very sluggishness in her flow may cause some listeners to lean out, but I read her unhurried delivery as a testament to her lyricism. Her words are important, and her voice is unwavering. There isn’t a single up-tempo track on the EP (most of the songs sit between 65-80 BPM). Faux moves slowly yet steadily to communicate her message.
CRY 4 HELP opens with “MEDICATED” which marks an instrumental departure from her previous work, as Faux ditches the 808s and seeks clarity over live drums and mellow synths. She sings, “I don’t wanna be medicated / I don’t wanna be sedated / rather have you call me crazy.” Faux reflects on her interpersonal relationships with lovers and friends alike — she admits she isn’t good at surrounding herself with virtuous people. Towards the last 20 seconds of the track, the instruments drop out and we are left with syncopated handclaps and lush vocal harmonies as Faux raps “I’m so good / I’m so good / I’m so good at pickin’ bad friends.”
The middle three tracks, “LEAVE ME ALONE,” “IN THE AIR” and “NIGHT TIME” capture similar sentiments of longing and regret. Faux raps verses between rich choruses that ooze with reverb and layered vocal harmonies. Make no mistake, these are great songs, but I find they lack the lyrical depth Faux is capable of and finally displays in the closing track, “LATCH KEY.” The track opens with a mellow Motown-type bassline and shimmery guitar chords that float over vintage-style soul drums. Faux raps about the depths of her youth in a clear and concise manner — she ditches the figurative language and tells us the story of a young woman who finds herself pregnant with no support from the father of the unborn child. Tragically, the young woman miscarries the child and is left to cope with lingering feelings of loss, inadequacy and despair, all on her own.
At the end of “LATCH KEY,” Faux comes to terms with her partner’s cowardice and explains that such adversity got her to where she is today. She works through her own shortcomings in the relationship and tries her best to figure out why he wasn’t there when she was in need. She closes the song (and the EP) by directly addressing this man. She raps, : “Been harborin’ some feelings but it’s safe to say we good / Just know I love you deeply and you did the best you could.”
CRY 4 HELP is an exciting project that displays the many facets of Kari Faux’s musicianship which I hope she will continue to refine throughout her career.. Her voice is wonderful and her hooks are catchy, but she is also a fantastic storyteller who delves to new emotional depths when she raps and tells us her own story.
Noah Thomas is a junior in the college of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org