If someone mentioned spoken-word music in 2004, thoughts would have jumped to Bradley Hathaway; if they mentioned spoken-word music in 2010, it’d be Listener. But now? Now, it should bring Korean-born Keyoung to mind.
Left Handed Son is easily one of the best projects I have heard in a long time. It’s catchy, it’s powerful and it’s different. While there are several aspects of spoken-word music on some tracks, the comparisons to Hathaway and the mustachioed Dan Smith stop there.
The vocals rotate from spoken-word, rapped and sung while the instruments provide ambiance. There is a definite hip-hop vibe present on about half of the tracks, but even then it sounds more like slam-poetry than rap.
The lyrics range from beautifully poetic (“The prophets fill the streets / Playing dirges for covered ears and dancing feet / Babylon falls like a millstone into the sea / but to a Lamb even a dragon must bow its knee”) to portraits of women treated as objects (“Why didn’t I smash the windows / set the captives free? / Why didn’t I do what had been done for me?”). The album is full of lyrical gems.
Most of the art and imagery of Left Handed Son comes from the spoken-word passages. Instead of playing off the speed of hip-hop, Keyoung uses alliteration to create a rhythm in his poems. A key example of this is on the minimalistic masterpiece, “Shake,” which includes the line, “The paint always spilled off my sides making sporadic sputtering acrylic spit stains when I opened my mouth for speech.” Not too shabby.
Personally, the highlight of this album is how it breaks away from the typical theological answers provided by Christian rap. Instead of giving answers, Keyoung asks a lot of questions. When given the difficult topic of sex on the streets, he doesn’t turn to give answers. Instead, he admits he doesn’t know, but waits for God knowing that He’ll come. It sounds simple, but in a genre filled with answers, a bit of ambiguity is far more realistic.
Maybe it’s because the album is only 30 minutes long, but the album gets better and better after each listen. It doesn’t get old. Listen to it a few times and let the words sink in.