Real J. Wallace meshes social commentary with poignant, introspective, lyricism over beats that feel modern while simultaneously harkening back to rap greats.

Kali is the sophomore album by Real J. Wallace and in it he illustrates a propensity for rhymes that feel effortless, and stylized, without ever ringing hollow. He tackles localized situations in the context of a broader social landscape. Questions of social anxiety, theological conflict, and internalized self-doubt are all persistent thematic elements found throughout Kali. Real J. is careful not to tread the waters of preachy-ness , instead illustrating a careful restraint to pull back and have a bit of fun. The pacing of the album is characterized by the alignment of this duality, an act of mimicry mirroring the abrupt tonal changes of introspective thought.

Real J. is at his best on the first single, “God Mourns” where he seems to effortlessly glide from movement to movement. He segues from specificity of morning routine to the broader implications of Black identity and one’s relationship to God. Real J. seems constantly at ends with his desire to succeed and his interpretation of God’s plan. The dichotomy he creates is an uplifting message of prevailing hopefulness in the face of adversity.

One of the most notable aspects of Kali is what feels like the absence of climax, an interesting decision, but especially relevant to the mimetic qualities present throughout. Life has no climax and no decisive plot, but the one we choose to write for ourselves. In this way Real J. succeeds as an artist striving to encompass the aspects of life he finds inspiring and worth thinking about. If art is a reflection of life, as so many believe, Real J. Wallace has crafted an album that is willing to embrace the darkness to find light.

Find Kali by Real J. Wallace on on Spotify, Bandcamp, and Soundcloud.

By: Brian R. Strauss (Foxx Press)