In the world of rap co-signs are everything. Check the scoreboard, regardless if its Dr. Dre and Eminem, Jay Z and J Cole or Lil Wayne and Drake (you get the point) no one can deny the prowess obtained when working with megastars. There’s a trickle-down effect that is passed down to the next artist in line. However, there are always exceptions to the rule; and sometimes despite working with mainstream artists others choose to remain behind the scenes; K. Sparks is the exception. Not everyone can say they’ve had the opportunity to work with A-list recording artists such as KiD CuDi, Roc Nations Rapsody, DJ Envy, and Nick Cannon. Those are some of the names that grace K. Sparks’ resume. Despite working with big names throughout his career he remains an underground mainstay. Judging by the sound of his most recent opus, that’s the way he prefers to keep his content.
Much like his previous release Seasons Theme, there is no attempt to make current-sounding music. Instead, it’s quality music with a focus on current events. The Es-K scored project reveals itself to be a package of consciousness, lyricism, and self-humility. Urban Couture drifts seamlessly between various soundscapes while providing in-depth commentary. On the albums intro track, “Flipside” Sparks engages the duality of perspectives such as a couple struggling with invitro to have a child, in comparison to another couple whose children are placed with children’s services due to substance abuse. Then discussing the contrast between an African America child that is writing his first sentence, to an African American male being sentenced in prison. The content is heavy, yet the accompanying Es-K smooth production provides the perfect balance. It’s essential medicine given with honey.
Sparks has fused the political and the personal since his 2008 debut Super Senior, but on Urban Couture, the two are nearly inseparable. But generally, Sparks explores grander sociopolitical themes. On the infectious “Make America Fake Again” Sparks trades spoken word poetry bars with Nation as they discuss various racial and political dynamics. The dynamic of race is discussed from the perspective of not only racism but also the subliminal psychological components. These topics are thought-provoking and intriguing at best with lines such as “Black people in black churches with white pictures of a white Jesus on their fans. While somebody grand momma talking bout let him use you, pastor”.
It’s old at this point to say that Sparks is technically a superb wordsmith, and his astonishing flow on cuts like the title track “Urban Couture” and “Pen Griffey” confirm that. But Sparks’s greatest talent, and what separates so many of Urban Couture‘s verses — is his ability to discuss prominent topics within humanity without sounding mundane. If you listen closely enough: each song contains its own subtle gems and keys if you catch them. On the infectious “Da Homie E” he raps from two different personas, one being himself attempting to escape the street lifestyle; while the other person is attempting to pull him back into negative behavior. The exchange combined with the instrumentation sounds and feels like a movie.
Urban Couture proves Sparks is a musician that doesn’t need a co-sign. When I started this review my preface was not everyone can say they have had the opportunity to work with A-List recording artist. After listening to Urban Couture, I can comfortably state not everyone has had the opportunity to work with K. Sparks. An Underground gem with mainstream power.
“Strip 4 Me”
Sparks grapples with stripping aware layers that keep individuals from being intimate with one of the best verses of his career.
This song is a duet with Snoh Ramos. Flawless from start to finish combined with the perfect guitar riff.