Koran Streets’ album,You.Know.I.Got.It, is an impressive addition to the South Berkeley hip-hop scene. His record — particularly his recently released deluxe edition — is a lyrical representation of his life, with each song telling a different story from his past. He doesn’t waste time on showy poetic devices or unnecessary rhymes, instead concentrating on relaying his message in an effective and impactful manner. His words are stripped down to only the most compelling pieces needed to tell his story.
Like many rappers, Streets has a difficult but important story to tell. He remembers being homeless as a child before moving to Berkeley, where his mom opened a local theater company — Lower Bottom Playaz. At 13, he was involved in a freak accident when his dreads caught fire as a result of an attempted home remedy for lice. He went through 20 skin graft surgeries and 6 finger amputations, after which he felt recovered despite his altered physical appearance.
In his teenage years, he became involved in illegal street behaviors and did several stints in jail, which he references in his song “Without a High School Diploma,” saying “Taken near to the motherfucking jailhouse / White man got me by the neck.”
Streets’ dedication to directness in telling his story carries over from his lyricism into his rap style and the album’s tone. He raps with power and purpose, wasting no time on wordplay or inconsistency. His beats, which are the rhythmic backbone of the song, blend effortlessly with his words, emphasizing and manifesting his message as a center of focus for the listener.
His use of soft synthesizers in combination with a strong drum beat differentiates his sound from that of others, as well as establishes a smooth base upon which he overlays his heavy-hitting lyrics, creating an easy listening experience, despite the weighty lyricism. One song, “Struggle,” is a prime example — the background melody is simple and catchy with laid-back harmonics and rhythms that are reflective of the sounds of the ‘80s.
Overall, what makes Streets’ album significant is the consistency of tone in his songs, resulting in an unwavering artistic theme. His distinct sound, along with recurring overdubs of “You know I got it” and “Streets,” tie the album together into one conceptual piece in which each song has its place. Like other artists with such a distinct sound, Street sometimes falls into the trap of producing tracks that are repetitive with no differentiating musical features, but as a singular work, it does not lose merit.
This album takes the ugliest and roughest moments of Streets’ life and unites them into a narrative of growth and triumph. The archetypal example of this is “Without a High School Diploma” in which one of the first lyrics is “Long as I can put it in a song I can deal with it.” Streets talks about some of his toughest struggles, as well a desire to become more prominent, saying “If you can dream it, you can do it / Well I did dream hella shit that I ain’t never did.” The song comes around to reflect on how far Streets has come, despite not having a high school diploma, and it serves as a testament to his dedication to his career, regardless of obstacles.
Within the context of hip-hop, Street’s music is vibrant and respected by both commercial and critical margins. He embraces topics of commercial hip-hop, and some songs, like “Ima Thug” tell a very standard story of life within the local drug game, but his personalized style allows him to revitalize repetitive content and elevate it to impressive heights. While the album received relatively little attention from the public, it cannot be denied that Streets has made an impressive entrance into the hip-hop scene. You.Know.I.Got.It is both conceptually and artistically strong, providing an impressive tracklist that reflects Streets’ unique sound and dedication to telling his story.
Contact Rhea Srivats at [email protected].