As Khalil Equiano began his set at the Chop Suey album release party for his highly anticipated solo debut From Slaveships to Spaceships, there was nothing but good vibes and positivity. Every so often, his trademark braids shook free, flying out with the passionate words of his new release.
Seattle has latched onto the 30-year-old emcee, also known as Khingz. His approach to the city itself and the music that’s produced here are very different. The album’s flowing sound echoes the vibe that’s come to represent Seattle hip-hop, not harmless or soft but without a doubt conscious. From race relations to coming up as a “thug nerd,” he creates a portrait based on pure lyricism that results in one of the best hip-hop albums of the year, from Seattle or otherwise.
Khingz has a wide array of talents, and his solo project utilizes the full arsenal. On the track “Pony Boy,” he challenges the stereotypes he dealt with in the multicultural South End of Seattle: “I’m an outsider / Blacks, Latinos and Asians / And the white girls love me ‘cause I’m black and I’m skating.” Meanwhile, “Blaq Han Solo” — maybe the best track on the album, despite the fact that he nearly left it off — showcases his ability to write a “ghetto love hymn.” Ultimately, the record delves into a deeper mental understanding that channels the rapper’s struggle into a powerful message.
Starting at age 10, the artist put in nearly a decade of gangbanging, and at 15, he was shot twice. Being so deeply involved in the city’s South End/Central District conflict is something impossible to completely escape, and while Khingz doesn’t glamorize a gangster-rap image, he doesn’t shy away from the realities of street life either.
“I’m coming from a personal and a political stance, which are really very closely aligned,” he said. “In the political stance, I’m talking about scientific mental colonization that happens when a group of people is never really free. On a personal level, it’s about seeing how that colonization played out in my life with gangbanging … that I thought [was] necessary at the time.”
In many ways, the album is a product not only of his life as a gangbanger in the South End or his work on the other side of the struggle as a youth and community programs volunteer, but a representation of his complete self-destruction and reincarnation. It’s the culmination of his transformation into a man of honor and his musical tale of liberation that is as inspiring as he intended it to be.
Reach reporter Nick Feldman at email@example.com.
One Be Lo featuring Khingz, Yirim Seck and JusMoni
July 3 at 8 p.m.
The Vera Project, 305 Harrison St., $7
Upcoming Seattle CD release parties
The Summer Tape Party featuring The Physics and THEESatisfaction
June 27 at 7 p.m.
Triple Crown, 705A E. Pike St., free
Grynch, Chemistry EP release party featuring Sol & Geologic of Blue Scholars
July 12 at 8 p.m.
The Nectar Lounge, 412 N. 36th St., $7 advance
Please read our Comment policy.