Responsible for Houston’s second Rap record ever, K-Rino’s lyrical wizardry has commanded the respect of the city’s elite artists for nearly 25 years. Immortalized through his black rhyme books, the South Park Coalition founder’s far-reaching influence is visible through Chamillionaire’s wordy punchlines and Z-Ro’s depressed conversations with Jesus.
With his “Killer Rhymes Intellectually Nullifying Opponents,” The Wizard’s emotion-filled storytelling brushstrokes listeners’ imaginations like a blank canvas with socially conscious imagery ranging from reflective hood fables to Wu-Tang Clan-style metaphorical spit.
Continuously growing as a “contrary artist,” Annihilation of the Evil Machine symbolizes K-Rino’s first full-fledged attempt to restore a lost Houstonian art form: the concept album. Although natives like Convicts and Scarface have tested these uncharted waters, he has long anchored his career with innovative, well-executed conceptual tracks. Thematically, AOTEM targets the manipulative forces corrupting H-Town’s Third Ward including the Houston Police Department, Fox News channel, the White House, and local radio station 97.9 FM.
Although this plot generates visions of 29 Ill Bill-esque conspiracy theory cuts, AOTEM demonstrates far more versatility. Like pages torn from a science fiction novel, K-Rino finds himself as the chosen one, bearing the weight of the world on his shoulders (“Annihilation Of The Evil Machine”), only to later find himself facing off in a duel with a fellow wizard (“The Sorcerer’s Den”), but not before splitting his chromosomes to create a perfectly matched partner-in-rhyme (“Duality”). Staying true to his acronym-based moniker, he whips out a scalpel and gives foes a lyrical lobotomy (“The Epitome” and “Flow Session Number 1”), then puts his own career under the knife, dissecting critics’ condemnation (“He Say She Say”). Wizardry aside, SPC’s commander-in-chief picks up his poetic camcorder and shoots a chilling ghetto documentary (“When You Hate To Love”), followed up with exposé investigative reporting on Capitol Hill (“The Plan”).
Joining K-Rino on the frontlines against The Evil Machine is a 25-member army comprised of SPC icons Dope-E, Ganksta N-I-P, and Point Blank as well as affiliate group, Guerilla Maab. While this infantry holds their own on the 11-minute posse cut “Spit Sumthin” and other tracks like “God’s Voice” and “Perfect Union,” at times they let down their guard with comparably inferior, off-key singing (“Last Letter”) and by sending conflicting superficial messages (“Certified”). Given The Wizard’s recent victories on The Blood Doctrine and Solitary Confinement with minimal reinforcements, AOTEM should have been a stealth solo mission rather than a SPC carpet-bombing.
Like Canibus and Immortal Technique, K-Rino’s “Achilles’ heel” is his usage of minimalistic instrumentals, forgettable hooks, and subpar engineering. At his finest, he thrives off laid back, Mystic Stylez-esque dark, moody instrumentals designed by cornerstone producers Black Mike, Dope-E, Vibez, and more recently Germany’s Keyza Soze. Aside from a verse from his C.O.D. partner, AOTEM fails to benefit from their expertise, leaving The Wizard reliant upon 16 lesser-known producers. Similar to his militia, this soundscape comes across as a digression, with overused piano- and string-based instrumentals, copycatted Eminem production (“Last Letter”), and electronic sound effect interference (“I’ll See You”).
All faults aside, there is no reason to abort his mission, as K-Rino continues to deliver convincing lyrical quality, while others slip into The Evil Machine’s homogenous, mainstream clutches. Even though he could gone with the theatrical version rather than the director’s cut, The Wizard continues to experiment as an artist by intimately chronicling both his artistic and personal growth, while fine-tuning his craft by limiting cheap, simple similes and overly abstract, inaccessible concepts. With a brilliant past as a passionate, fiery loose cannon, K-Rino has an indisputable future as your favorite Houston rapper’s favorite rapper