Press/Reviews

IQ

The Faulkner Review

IQ is a rap/hip hop artist hailing from Los Angeles. He started out at the age of only six, when he began writing poems that resembled rap songs. After a colourful adolescence, where he ended up serving jail sentences in three different counties, he formed the record label Intelligence Records with his cousin, Significant7. He then helped form the group Linguistics who ended up supporting acts such as Wu-Tang, Dilated Peoples and KRS-ONE. He cites influences such as Tech N9ne, Beastie Boys and Eminem, which are audible in his music.

This album, IQ Test (released September 1st, 2015), consists of sixteen tracks, opening with Addiction ft. Gina Lorenzo. It starts with the instantly memorable chorus hook sung by Gina, who has a powerful, soulful voice. The track deals with drug addiction, but also the human capacity for addiction in general. IQ enters for the verse, and immediately impresses with a casual, almost conversational rapping style that rivals Eminem for wordplay and inventive rhymes.

There’s also a worldly wisdom borne of experience in lines like ‘Drugs may empower you, but after a while you can’t get to the same altitude…’. The musical backing is sparse but effective, pulsing insistent piano and subtle bass over a laid back hip hop beat, with a synth riff on the chorus. It’s essentially an anti-drugs song that isn’t corny or preachy because it’s real and humorous as well as serious.

Second track Changin’ The World also has a positive message behind it but doesn’t shirk from pointing out the many screwed up aspects of the world: “See, I have this vision for man, soon we’ll stop fighting over religion and land… I see the consequences of their decision and look, you guys are lost fighting over primitive books….”. Again, IQ combines rapped verses with serious content, along with a simple and catchy vocal hook which makes for an effective combination.

Next comes Strong ft. Amy Winehouse, J Money/Lovie Ray and it’s a mindblower. Sampling the late, great Amy Winehouse (Stronger Than Me from her first album Frank) to great effect, it becomes a smoky, jazzy hip hop track replete with mellow clean guitar and smooth trumpet. Each of the three rappers lay down a verse each, and their differing styles complement each other. A real album highlight.

No Playin’ Games ft. Buppy Brown is a very catchy track (with some Shabba Ranks style vocals from Buppy) over a descending piano riff and mid tempo beat with busy hi hats. It contains some very funny, if very politically incorrect lyrics from IQ, who has an Eminem-style capacity to shock and a similar sense of dark humour. Might As Well is a nice contrast, acoustic guitar and trumpet giving the musical backing a Latin feel. Lyrically, it’s about taking a ‘devil may care’ attitude towards life and again has a catchy chorus with some amusingly offensive but unprintable lines!

Who I Am ft. Phil Dog and Gina Lorenzo is a fine piece of RnB-flavoured rap about identity and being understood. Gina sings a powerful hook (“There’s a burning inside me that you’ll never understand…” ) and gravel-voiced Phil Dog gives a nice cameo on the second verse. Gina’s classy vocals feature again on Achieve, another track with an uplifting, defiantly positive message.

10’s Only is a dubstep-influenced hip hop track, with a Skrillex type low synth sound on the chorus that beefs up another addictive hook from IQ. On the verses, he explains his preference for only the most attractive women, and it’s safe to say he is not concerned about aiming for the feminist demographic with this one. Crazy Life is another entertaining track, IQ really showing his verbal dexterity and seamless flow as he recalls his troubled youth in and out of prison. His brutal honesty is one of his strengths and by the end you’ll find yourself agreeing with him when he says “I’ve had a crazy life….”.

In A Perfect World is the final track to feature Gina Lorenzo. Ironically enough, it is her, rather than IQ, that gets to deliver the most acerbic lines as she describes why a perfect world would be hell: “No need for motivation when everybody wins, no death means overpopulation of chumps with stupid grins…”. Lanita is more light hearted, essentially IQ imagining an erotic encounter with his masseuse!

Threesome, as the title suggests, carries on the sexual theme with a tale about a threesome that didn’t quite happen due to too much alcohol being involved: “Next thing I know I was passing out on the couch, next morning she’s telling me to get out of her house…”. Track fourteen Let’s Go has a chugging, insistent Lose Yourself style rhythm and shows that IQ can do fighting talk as well as any rapper you care to name.

There is no drop off in quality on the last two tracks. Work has one of the catchiest choruses here, performed over a swirling synth melody that brought to mind Mike Oldfield’s classic Tubular Bells and is a late highlight. No Mo’ Savin’ These Ho’s makes for a suitable and enjoyable finale featuring the most intricate hip hop beat on the album with skittish, super-fast hi hats and an 80’s style synth melody that becomes part of the track’s main hook.

Overall, this is a consistently excellent album that showcases IQ as a charismatic and controversial artist. He depicts his hedonistic lifestyle with refreshing candour, yet at the same time manages to convey a strongly positive social message on some tracks without coming across as trite. Now that Eminem is past his best, maybe IQ is his natural heir as a smart, socially aware rapper that isn’t afraid to shock or offend the political correctness brigade.

 

Alex Faulkner

Verdict: 8.6 out of 10

Tilting Windmill Studios

n this afternoon’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we delve deeply into ‘IQ Test,’ the extensive new hip hop record from indie artist IQ. The brutally honest exhibition of songs is a compelling one, one that’s continually rewarding for the listener. First, though, let’s learn a bit about IQ.

 

IQ is the moniker of Kevin Paul, a man who has lived and breathed the content of his songs. He had a troubled youth that involved drugs, prison sentences, and even a brief escape from the law to Mexico. In recent years, Paul has screwed his head on straight in the pursuit of his lifelong dream: hip hop music. He’s started his own record label since then and has released ‘IQ Test’ independently. Note that the album is available September 1 - We’ve received an early glimpse at the record.

After learning about IQ, I was hoping that his music would be personal and honest. He’s lived through so much and I wanted him to tap that life experience in his music. Right off the bat, ‘Addiction’ makes it clear that he is doing just that. Guest vocalist Gina Lorenzo croons, “don’t give into your addiction” as IQ remarks on the realities of addiction, regardless of what it is your addicted to.

‘IQ Test’ is an incredibly ambitious album, clocking in at sixteen tracks. I spent about two and a half hours with it in preparation for this piece, and thus, I’m going to touch on the high and low points of the work. ‘Changin’ The World’ follows ‘Addiction’ with a second insightful track. The chorus is a bit awkward and out of place, but the actual verses are intelligently penned and performed.

‘Strong’ is another fascinating track, perhaps as a result of the brass section and eclectic sound design. With that said, the most exceptional outing of the first half of ‘IQ Test’ is almost most certainly ‘No Playin’ Games,’ a track featuring Buppy Brown. The production of this track is nothing short of excellent. In fact, it’s one of the better independent hip hop instrumentations I’ve heard this year. The lyrics are a bit bizarre, but Brown’s inclusion in the song infuses it with an immense amount of personality.

One of the strongest points of ‘IQ Test’ is the diversity of the productions. All too often, I find independent hip hop artists recycling stereotypical beats and landscapes. Every track on ‘IQ Test’ feels powerful and independent on its own two feet. Take ‘Might As Well,’ the track following ‘No Playin’ Around.’ There’s an acoustic guitar backing a complex beat and sparse brass section. How cool is that? You don’t find that very often in this scene.

In addition to the incredibly varied productions, which is again personified on ‘Who I Am,’ IQ’s music is enhanced by the guest artists. Though ‘IQ Test’ remains a vehicle for his creativity, the array of people in the passenger seat continually refresh the experience. Each of these guests brings their unique style to the table, such as Garrett Prado on the remarkably soulful ‘Walkin’ The Line.’

 

‘Achieve’ continues IQ’s jaunt through lyrically compelling subjects. He’s again backed by an acoustic guitar and Gina Lorenzo. Very much in the nature of ‘IQ Test,’ the listener is immediately transferred to a dramatically different style for ‘10s Only,’ a tune that’s clearly inspired by electronic influence. On this track, I found IQ’s lyricism particularly good as he describes the kind of woman he’s interested in.

The next highlight of ‘IQ Test’ is ‘In A Perfect World,’ another song backed by Lorenzo. The string section is absolutely stunning, though IQ’s lyrics fault a bit flat at times. He’s a fine wordsmith and rapper, but feels flat when he attempts to sing. Fortunately, he doesn’t attempt to do that very often. The next track, a ballad entitled ‘Lanita,’ is a nice exhibition of his style, albeit a bit peculiar since he’s straight up describing his sex life with Lanita.

As ‘IQ Test’ begins to wind down, a few highlights are worth mentioning. I found ‘Let’s Go’ ultimately forgettable because the two tracks following it are so memorable - ‘Work’ and the finale, ‘No Mo’ Savin’ These Hos.’ The latter culminates some of the finest elements of IQ’s production technique. Thus, it’s an apt finale, one that ends ‘IQ Test’ on a defiant high note.

At the end of the day, ‘IQ Test’ is superb. It’s a bit awkward at times, but every bit as honest and real as I was hoping it would be. The few times it falls short, it’s quickly recovered either by an excellent production or guest star. I’d argue a few tracks could have been cut to strengthen the experience... ‘Lanita’ and ‘Let’s Go,’ for example. With that said, though, it’s still a sharp and coherent effort for a sixteen track album. That in itself is a massive accomplishment. Most independent artists have trouble harnessing the power of half a dozen songs, let alone sixteen. Pick up ‘IQ Test’ when it drops in September if you’re a fan of indie hip hop. It’s a microcosm of some of the best elements of the genre.

Jamsphere magazine

IQ, a graduate of the Los Angles Recording School, has opened shows for Wu-Tang, Dilated Peoples, Chino XL, KRS-ONE, just to name a few. IQ has also performed Live at; B.B. Kings, Knitting Factory, House of Blues, Hogue Barmichael’s, Dragonfly, Cinespace, Viper Room and The Mint. A founding member of the group Linguistics, IQ has performed on songs with 2mex, AWOL One, Percee P, and has produced for Abstract Rude. He also started a label called “Intelligence Records” with his cousin, Significant7, who is also a rapper.

the album cover

the album cover

“Most rappers seem to think the world would be a better place with more crime and gun violence, so they glorify it in their records,” says IQ, continuing, After having served 2 sentences at LA County’s twin towers, along with other bids in nearby counties, I don’t understand why anyone would want to glorify it. The only reason I bring it up, is to have credibility when I tell my listeners that they do not want to go to jail, even once.”

IQ has now dropped his 16-track album, entitled “IQ TEST”. The album comes hot on the heels of its predecessor, “Hip-Hop for the Advanced Listener”. Like a fine wine, IQ just keeps getting better. He truly has mastered the art of making great songs.  As is the case with nearly all of the sixteen songs on this album, not only do we notice IQ’s incredible flow, his equal doses battle rhymer and thought-provoking turns as a lyricist but the astonishing amount of variety in the wall of sound he creates.

IQ

IQ

In a musical genre that is primarily overtaken by a simple beat as the background for the lyrics IQ’sinfusion of a crossover amount of styles, melodies, hooks and much more, instantly catches the listeners’ attention. IQ is also one of the few emcees left who sync the rhythm of their lyrics in precision to the beat. It’s one of the many aspects which set him apart from the Hip Hop crowd. But, it is in his distinctly singular flow and unique way of putting words together where IQ’sstrengths as an artist are most noticeable.

Songs like “Addiction ft. Gina Lorenzo”, “No Playin’ Games ft. Buppy Brown”, “Walkin’ the Line ft. Garrett Prado”, “10s Only”, “In a Perfect World ft. Gina Lorenzo”, “Let’s Go” and “Work”, all showcase IQ’s individuality, his positive lyricism and choice of musical selection. Nearly every song is different than the next yet he is consistent in keeping his own unique techniques in each song.

You can tell every syllable uttered in this entire album was extensively handcrafted and meticulously analyzed to become one with the production music which is way off the beaten track, with a truly organic sound. “IQ TEST” is a mammoth release with genuinely epic songs and its ambitions are undeniable. This kind of focus and wide-eyed musical dreaming helps make “IQ TEST” stand-out far above the competition.