Balancing Act (Neak Undefined Paura/Amore review)
Have you ever loved something so much that you were scared to lose it? Usually that comes down to people and, hopefully very rarely, unique accomplishments and possessions.
That fear is part and parcel of the human experience of love. You can’t escape it, sure you can try, but life is so much more simple then we want to believe. We enjoy life because it’s transient and it’s in our nature to appreciate what we don’t already have or what we have lost.
That balance between love lost and love gained is where fear lives, and where this week’s poet takes us.
Neak Undefined – Paura/Amore
released January 11, 2016
Dominic Kelly, better known by his stage name Neak Undefined, is a Chicago-based hip-hop artist with something to say. I wasn’t entirely sure who was more excited for me to put together a review of this album, me or Neak! That should tell you something about this midwest artist right out of the gate.
The passion, commitment, and energy on this record is limitless. Every listen gives you something slightly different. Or to put it another way, it’s undefined. His music has plenty of helpings of jazz, funk, soul, hip-hop and touches of new wave all fused together to create the buffet that is Paura/Amore. Also harp on Champagne Dreamin’!
I have to admit that I didn’t know what the “paura” part of Paura/Amore meant immediately and why that was the title. Then I looked the word up and every detail just clicked right into place.
It’s almost like Neak Undefined knows this material inside and out, has been living with it for a couple of years and has put up his concepts for us unfiltered. This entire album deals with those themes in great detail and Neak says it best about the thrust of the record in the intro speech to his lead track, King Deferred.
We never know what life can bring us until it comes
Pain, sorrow, joy, happiness
You seem to always live in a place of unknowing
That’s the fear, that’s the part of life we wish we knew
That’s the part we wish we could control
The songs manage to cover a myriad of topics without ever making it stretch thin. For example the simple repetitive song structures of Sacrifice and Money for the Honey hit specific points about the real struggles Neak has gone through to get success and that sacrifices aren’t always glorious and dramatic, making you think while you enjoy the beats. The way he sets up tracks to provide atmosphere makes hooks about “changing friends, as much as she change clothes” hilarious and fun.
There are other tracks which do well to address his hometown with Back in Chicago – covering topics of trading luxury for sin, lacking father figures, the danger apparent in the streets, and the challenges of police making searches based on ethnicity. Which makes the earlier song Stay Alive all the more sweet, because it’s dovetailed with a voicemail from Neak Undefined’s father, encouraging him and reminding him to stay in contact as he pursues his passions.
Have I mentioned how much energy and how danceable this record is yet, dear readers? Thank The Lord is fantastic too, it has gospel roots, has Neak talking about haters (which you all know I love) and undertones of spirituality throughout – he thanks God for light and recognizes his role of being a light for others.
Other stand out songs for me were MMM (about the drug molly/esctasy, personified), Ego (a self-reflection anthem filled with conflicts), and Heaven and Hell. With Heaven and Hell in particular being full of relevant questions and material about losing family and the challenges that come with guilt from the concept of sin.
As I already mentioned, the title of the album makes a hell of a lot more sense after you listen to it, and the content is hard to reach right away that I’ll be playing this one for a while before I’ve fully wrapped my brain around it.
I highly recommend you get a copy of this, so you can do your ears and your mind a favour.
If you don’t believe me that love is precious, go out and destroy your most prized possessions, ALL OF THEM. After that point you’ll have a fraction of the feeling one gets when you lose something that you weren’t expecting to. That sensation over control, as Neak Undefined puts it, is Paura/Amore.
Come back tomorrow where I’ll head as far out to the western seaboard as I can go, for a movie review that is outta my hands and into yours.