Album Review: Karol Conka's Batuk Freak LP [BRA]

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On even a casual listen, the thing about Batuk Freak, Karol Conka’s calling card, is that it’s undeniably Brazilian. From the call-and-response vocals to the batucada riddims and the bossanova flutes, the record is proud of the place it comes from, a reflection of the artist and her influences, not just musical but environmental. It’s as if Karol wants you to feel what it’s like to be in her world, which also steers it clear from sounding like a stereotype. This is the real deal.

Four years in the making, Batuk Freak was produced by Nave Beat and Conka, with all lyrics written by the latter. She rhymes exclusively in Portuguese, her sing-songy vocals are a major factor that contribute to the rolling flow with which she makes her way through the narrative of the album. Tracks like “Caxambu” and “Boa Noite” feature a playful and celebratory quality that makes this a very fun record to listen to. The second half of the album is breezier and less frenetic, but it doesn’t sacrifice the edge. In fact, sometimes you might come across some unexpected glitches and cuts to keep you on your toes.

At heart, this record is proudly a hip-hop joint to the bone. While sounds and samples recall classic pop sounds of the South American giant Karol calls home, the drums and attitude are (almost) strictly 4 da b-boys. What’s more, the beats and approach are not tied down to a specific era. It’s psychedelic enough to be trap but also G-funky like a reminder of the cool menace of early ’90s South Central. And this is the base sound of the whole record, an amalgam of production styles that sounds completely original yet familiar at the same time.

The way everything comes together—this Frankenstein of tradition and vanguard, of local sounds and globalized methods—is effortless, blossoming into a four-on-the-floor beat that makes Batuk Freak a gangsta favela, lowrider, banger-filled work. All the tracks are standouts and each makes the journey to the mind of Karol Conka a delight that will challenge you to press “stop.” Considering this is her first effort, we can’t wait for what we’ll be getting from this young artist in the future.