SOUND ‘ROUND: Black, gay and in love in America



If Frank Ocean is granted his wish for an early retirement, rest assured Ian Simpson a.k.a. Kevin Abstract and other young, black, gay males on the wrong end of the sociopolitical spectrum would be quick to fill the void. But this Houston rapper-singer-autotuner doesn’t just share Ocean’s point of view, he also one-ups him with the kind of articulate beats and crisp hooks R&B tends to disavow these days. He digs formal songs over fluid sounds, and those formalities build this concept album worth more than the sum of its parts. The premise returns Abstract to high school along with a crush on the quarterback. I suspect his idea of beauty is less autobiographical and more a manifestation of his self-contempt. Aside from the penis, Kevin’s beau has everything he don’t: white skin, deep pockets, a social life, validation, unspoken privilege. Meanwhile, Kevin’s mom is a homophobe, his boyfriend’s parents are racist and he hates his blackness for all the historical baggage it brings. The subject matter is heavy and the music doesn’t always carry the weight. Nonetheless, he remains hopeful if not happy. Be encouraged the best song revolves around him quitting his day job. Where he’s going, he won’t need it. GRADE: A-

Key Tracks: “Tattoo” / “Yellow” / “Miserable America”


Kevin Abstract will document his first headlining U.S. tour for Viceland and release the footage via his new television show, titled “American Boyband.” The show will center on Abstract and his band, named Southhampton. The show debuts June 9.

SYD — FIN (Epic)

How Sydney Bennett’s first solo effort is distinguishable to her recent work with The Internet is beyond me. Perhaps the bass is a little less up front. Maybe she’s accepted her diminutive whisper of a voice for what it is. It could be more reliant on samples and cool factor than actual songs. The differences are minimal and hard to parse because of Bennett’s obsession with mood over melodicism. The details don’t matter as much as the vibes, man. That’s not to say there aren’t hooks, but they’re deliberately anchorless and fleeting on an album that’s meant to be more meditative than memorable. But credit the former Odd Future producer for sticking to her talking points. From front to back, these songs concern insecure and unstable love with another woman. No pandering, just real talk — exactly what we need for these terrible times in which gay rights are threatened the world over. It’s vital for someone like Syd to humanize such issues. But championing the cause ain’t her only goal. As he told NPR: “This (album) is like an in-between thing. Maybe get some songs on the radio, maybe make some money.” We all gotta pay the bills. Maybe she can open a few minds while doing so. GRADE: A-

Key Tracks: “All About Me” / “Got Her Own” / “Know”


Sydney Bennett, stage name is Syd Tha Kyd, above, is heralded as an up-and-coming voice in R&B. But she doesn’t embrace her status as a leader. “I don’t think it would be right to consider myself a pioneer at 24,” Bennett told “The most I’ve dealt with is with photo-shoot people hiring a stylist who brings women’s clothing. I just say, ‘I’m sorry I don’t do that’ and it’s all good.’ People have asked me how I’ve been so unapologetic. That’s cool to hear, but I don’t know. I just didn’t know any other way.”



Abstract on YouTube

SYD on YouTube