From Tallahassee, Florida, King P shows a particular felicity for dabbing in multi-genre records. The songwriter’s Top Notch single announces itself even less settled and specific than the rest of his body of work. It draws its uniqueness in a bass groove holding together the swag of the record, a cool B3 organ excitedly adding flavor to the music, and of course, the sharp rhyming pattern and minimal post-production style so beloved and characteristic to the 90’s Hip Hop era. King P is beginning to accumulate the rudiments of a mainstream artist: consistent, unapologetic, original. And we’re here for it.
Do you know what’s a trip? The intro of Top Notch. King P has you thinking this is about to be a semi-slowed-down experience. But wait and you shall see. So while the instrumental feels like a too-cool-for-school vibe, King P ferociously raps the hook: “I’m top notch, looking for somebody that’s hot/ I’m the dude you might wanna watch/ I’m top notch, I’m on another level my dear/ You can tell by what I wear/ I’m top notch, I’m ahead of my time/ I’m top notch, you a hater? Get in line/ I’m top notch, If you ain’t first, you last ’cause King P got his foot on the gas.” It might seem like a wordy hook but the truth of the matter is that its earwormish delivery makes it stick. Plus half of it is the title so rest assured, next time the hook kicks in, you’ll be rapping too.
The crunk-like sonic quality is loud and present. But then at 36 seconds in, the pace picks up and King P goes full 90s’ Will Smith flow type: “I been at it for a long time/ Getting better like old wine/ Take a sip and ya gonna press rewind/ King P got dat Good Vibes/ The story of a lifetime/ Breaking through, I’m a gold mine!/ Ladies dancing, what a good time/ Now fellas wanna bump and grind.” The artist is deliriously fun focusing intently on good times and lo and behold, he had to reference his past work too, Good Vibes. King P is a terrific instrumentalist, obviously a great rapper, bonafide singer, but he’s also a marketing genius. The man just got his blue badge on Instagram!
The optimism and zest for living life is a long-standing feature of King P’s narrative throughout his career. The saxophonist seems to have an interminable inspiration of joyous times: “I got action, total satisfaction/ I’m a classic baby, so you ride in good fashion/ Smooth as I wanna be, boss Iike I gotta be/ Respect from the old G’s, baby I’m King P!/ You better listen to me, I’m a Florida boy/ Hot, sunshine on me/ What’s up with you and me?/ In time we’ll see, there’s money to be made and time is money.” A natural but indispensable ingredient in making Top Notch sound as good as it does, is King P’s voice. Had it been higher pitched, it would have sounded like a try-hard session. Had it been lower-pitched, the public would have perceived it as corny. But nope. The singer’s vocal timbre is in the right golden middle to pull off this variation of Hip Hop.
The second verse is the music video put into words: “I got top-notch flow/ My top-notch swag match my top-notch drobe/ My future so bright, I got my top-notch shades/ Gotta wear ’em at night ’cause I know they gon’ hate/ And we ain’t seeing no haters.” Accurate to almost being of biblical fidelity, the message advances with astounding ease: “On the mission to win like Kobe and the Lakers/ When it’s crunch time Imma carry my team/ Give the ball to me and we winning that ring/ And this is what top notch means, a winning attitude and some self-esteem.” Leading through example has never been clearer. Peep the energetic and consistent rhyming scheme that King P flaunts without running it into the ground. The mention of diverse influences helps too as it spices up the song and keeps the audience tuned in: shades, haters, Kobe Bryant, basketball, self-esteem. Worth mentioning that the subjects of the record are divided into emotional and visual. Smart, smart, smart.
An ending worthy of an Oscar speech, or at the very least an MTV one, sparkles and reverberates with King P’s essence: “The swagger of a boss, the confidence of a king/ Go hard or go home, that’s everything/ That’s all I gotta say, ya boy King P going all the way/ Ain’t never slowing down, this is why/ Imma be Top Notch till the day I die.” This mixture of the practical and wildly fanciful personality is what attracts listeners of all ages, locations, sexes to King P’s music. The artist’s acoustic body is reliant on both his individual character and his product as a public figure. When you hear Top Notch you just know that if you ever meet King P, he’ll pull out his shades and throw on a Colgate smile asking if you’re top-notch too.
Infectious positivity? Yes sir. Golden-Age Rap style? Absolutely. Authentic swag and a high sense of fashion? Oh yeah. Overtalented if that’s even a word? Check that too. But WHO??? King P’s Top Notch.
Song Credits: Phillip Solomon Stewart (King P) – Singer, Songwriter; Brennan Fussman – Music Producer, Sound Engineer; Kendall Johnson (KenJo) – Mastering Engineer; KingP Entertainment (BMI) – Music Publisher.
Written by Mariana Berdianu
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