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Review: ‘I Know NIGO!’ is a project rooted in collaboration

Photo courtesy Victor Victor Worldwide

By Jacob Pellegrino     4/6/22 12:19am

Rating: ★★★½

If you’re like me, you were probably surprised that Japanese fashion designer Nigo was releasing an album and even more surprised to see the star-studded feature list: A$AP Rocky, Tyler, the Creator, Pusha T, Clipse, Pharrell, Gunna, Kid Cudi, Teriyaki Boyz, A$AP Ferg, Pop Smoke and Lil Uzi Vert.

For those of you who don’t know, Nigo is the creator of BAPE and HUMAN MADE. In late 2021, he was appointed artistic director of the French luxury house KENZO. BAPE’s brand has long been associated with American hip hop, and Nigo himself has also been involved in various music projects, including the creation of an experimental album in 2000 and DJ-ing for Japanese hip hop group Teriyaki Boyz. The seeds for “I Know NIGO!” were first planted when Nigo was approached by his friend, record executive Steven Victor, who proposed the idea of the multi-hyphenate making music again. “I Know NIGO!” is an album that lives up to its name, conceptually rooted in the personal relationships that inspired its creation. 

Once the features with Pharrell and Clipse were solidified, the project expanded from its original two track length as Victor and Nigo continued to brainstorm potential collaborators. More artists soon volunteered to be involved with the process, but anyone who didn’t personally know Nigo was turned down.

The album begins with A$AP Rocky and Tyler, the Creator on “Lost and Found Freestyle 2019,” a kinetic opener. Both Rocky and Tyler deliver great verses that compliment the diverse instrumentation. The beat switch between the two verses keeps listeners engaged and provides a satisfying switch between the two rappers. The intriguing shift between Rocky’s celebratory instrumental and Tyler’s darker, brass-based beat makes the track worth repeated listening.

“Hear Me Clearly” features Pusha T delivering a classic rap, a strategic amuse-bouche of the style fans can expect on his next full-length offering expected later this year. Pusha contrasts his success with that of superficial rappers and models who haven’t faced challenges in the music industry and drug dealing like he has. His boastful verse compliments the stripped-down instrumental and contains all of the hallmarks of Push’s best work.

The final track, “Come On, Let’s Go” sounds as if it could have been on “CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST,” Tyler’s last full-length album and the Grammy’s Best Rap Album winner. In the track, Tyler bemoans the time it takes a girl to get ready to go out with him. A standout verse from Tyler and exemplary production from Pharrell makes the track feel vibrant and full. However, it’s hard to find Nigo’s contribution on this song, as Pharrell produced it and it sounds like a solo Tyler track.

With “I Know NIGO!,” the KENZO director has created a project built on personal connection and a clear enjoyment of being in the company of like-minded collaborators. The album features a range of styles and artists that provide a nice variety but lead to inconsistent tracks, with some lagging behind in quality.

“I Know NIGO!” is a multidimensional tapestry of friendships nurtured throughout the years that showcases some lasting gems to make it worth the listen.

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