Reviewed by Andrew Midgley
Is this a Christian album? K.Sparks (real name Kyle Hunter) alludes to his faith on "Make America Fake Again" ("I am a king," he says, "but no need to crown me king/Because the crown of thorns already been worn") and offers ethical direction on "Da Homie E" ("Chase material gold or save your souls/The choice is yours") but neither the significance of Christ's sacrifice nor salvation from idolatry are really pressed. In the main, 'Urban Couture' boasts only lyrical fog, nebulous talk about his big "flow" filling out Sparks' pop culture references. While 'Urban Couture' is notable for its lack of profanity, and laudable for its author's lyrical calm and restraint, there is little here to suggest a forgiven sinner standing up and being counted. However, it is all intentional. Hunter is not trying to preach. "Just let it breathe", K.Sparks opens on "Blue Nostalgia"; and this could be the record's mantra. Sparks' raps are tossed into an ocean of blissed jazz and nu-soul piquancies and swallowed there by beats and atmosphere. This isn't to say the words are all nonsense - politics, for example, make an appearance on the album's most lyrically potent song, "Make America Fake Again"; and there is romance too, of a humble, knowing kind: "If Jay Z and Beyoncé got that lemonade/Then me and you was a better grade Minute Maid", he raps on "Blue Nostalgia". The sense is that for K.Sparks, words are not to be used as status symbols. He rarely indulges in braggadocio (save for an understated autobiography on "Greatness Is Complicated"), and consequently the overriding impressions of 'Urban Couture' are serene and reflective. The interludes - "Feelin' Away" and "June" - are beautiful, as are the painstakingly produced aural washes that back "Happily Never After" and "Summer In September". The thoughtfulness of Sparks' album ends up giving the listener far more to meditate upon than a rags-to-spiritual-riches testimony. If there is faith here, it is apophatic; a hip-hop via negativa reaching understanding of God by what is not said. 'Urban Couture' is a sumptuous offering.
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