Note: Excluding the final paragraph and Utupia Too tracks, this post was written on 6/8/2015

I woke up to a happy notification today. The Kings Dead’s Utopia Too had dropped while I slept dreaming of another great in their field, Lebron James—in the King’s case, the greatest.

I am doing my first listen of the album now. Sonically we open back in a sci-fi space vibe atmosphere, but my untrained ear has caught quite a few differences already that should make this a proper follow-up and not just an extension of the previous album. And as always, Sonny Shotz can fucking rap and that isn’t changing.

Sonny Shotz of The Kings Dead

I know more of words than beats, but it should not be ignored that Mendoza creates engrossing and cohesive soundscapes for Sonny to deftly flow through. This Kendrick Lamar studio album like congruity is the foundation of why their albums are so damn listenable top-to-bottom while having no true radio hits.

But…it will take a little time, and several more listens, before I can really comment on utopia 2 so instead of reviewing this album release hastily, I’m celebrating it with my Top 10 The Kings Dead songs &emdash;including dispelled parent group The Dean’s List and Sonny Shotz’s solo offshoots&emdash;as part of my continuing quest to lure more people into the world of The Kings Dead.

The Top 10

1. Dear Professor

Best Verse

I been sittin on my hope
Just waitin for a rope
A little bit to pull me out the bottom of this hole
And it’s gettin’ so dark, these nights are gettin’ longer
I hope I fall a million times just to stand up stronger
I don’t wanna die yet, but fuck it, if I do
Put your cup up in the air, bury me up in this booth

Notable in Production

Opening squirrel voice.

2. Burn it All

Best Line

Crewnecks, snapbacks, Nixons on my wrist man
I am not a hipster sister I just do some hip things

Best Part

Pop a bottle for the girl with no boyfriend
Drink it all we don’t care we just order more in
Light a blunt for the team cause we all here
Take a hit and make a hit
Nigga this is our year

Production Highlights

Featured piano, especially opening.

3. Hollywoood

Best Line

Black kid, couple of white girls sipping on life
And it feels alright, girl
White kids bumping this shit felling all black
Like this is our world

Best Line

You’re probably in L.A. working at the bar
Little something that I call throwin money in a jar
Hope it all works out, I do, I do
You hate this city, that’s cool, that’s cool

4. XXX

Best Lines

Talk to much rap to little
Alright alright I’m done this one right here
This shit right now and these words I say better hold me down
For the bitches I know and the ones I don’t
And the ones I have and the ones I won’t

Best Part

Talk to much rap to little
Alright alright I’m done this one right here
This shit right now and these words I say better hold me down
For the bitches I know and the ones I don’t
And the ones I have and the ones I won’t
It’ll all make sense real good real good real soon real soon real talk here

5. Mighty California

Best Line

The chorus, it’s unusually hard to rap but also nice-on-the-ears

Best Part

When the beat fades and Sonny quasi-acapellas:

I was seventeen in ’07, nineteen in ’09
Had some fun with Tami and Tia, man, that Spanish girl is so fine
Easy days You won’t get used to, used to say that shit to get by
That was fly, fly, to get driven, I don’t walk around to get high

Production Highlights

Female vocalist contributions.

At My Table (Interlude)

Best Verse

I’m fucking horrible at love, and frankly I’m scared as shit
Cuz my daughter’s getting big, I’m just a kid with a kid
I’m fucking heated up, but fuck that
This ain’t that original
And ever since Drake, everyone is so emotional
One hit wonders, you probably call that shit the hype
You probably bumping all that trill shit
Thinking it’s the life

Best Part

The hook. It’s one of my favorite hooks and it’s made possible by Mendoza’s beats and deft piano use.

Production Highlights

Piano!

Kryptonite Sanity House

Best Verse

Damn im feeling good
Reverse good and take the o out
Dog I paid my dues now that o is all I owe now
Thats nothing just a little verse for the summertime
Bitches in the whip getting lifted
Sipping chilling trilling killing
Blowing in the wind with Bobby Dylan

Best Part

The floaty, spirited, goose-bump-inducing culmination in the outro.

Production Highlights

The rain. The beast voice. Clap/chant at opening. Angelic female vocalist in background. And of course with Sonny, anytime the “Faaar too kind” adlib is dropped.

Not a Worry

Best Verse

Young enough to be faded
Old enough to stay sober
What’s your birthday?
Happy belated
Enjoy it once its all over
Because this life is only good one time
So tonight its all about one line
Fuck it im young
Top of your lungs
Girl I pray you aint no nun

Best Part

S to the O-N
Take it to the N-Y
Bring it to the M-A
Mommy yellin’ hola
Sonny wavin’ back
But stiffin’ the nixin ?
Thinking about a couple ways we could make a million
Time ticking in and out wishing the best for em’
Young guys saying flow is the best of em’
Maybe better the head of the new class
Trying to see me, hits better than true class, yeah!

Production Highlights

Catchy Zac Brown Band (I don’t like country but it works here) sample of “Toes”.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=80AOzF0QRag

Don’t Need Much

Best Line

I’m young black and racist
Only like green faces
Yo bro, bro don’t like my song
Well fuck him then
Er, To the bridge with the brick
And we roll in the back on the trunk
It’s a copy of my album like well I hope you have fun
Caus the world don’t need no hate
My girl don’t need no make up
And I’m just on the stage, see the kingdom when I wake up

Best Part

The floating chanting like beat supported by the hook.

Production Highlights

It’s wholly good.

Sell It

Best Verse

saw your video, you owe me three minutes back
You owe me more than just that, all of the substance you lack
I tried to preach at my prom, they said “Turn that shit off”
They grabbed the mic from a nigga, started twerking it out
I tried to sell it, sell it straight from the kitchen
To clarify all these visions and certify what the mission is
Imma keep on delivering, writing pages for innocent children
In the Dominican, who just envy us citizens

Best Part

The chorus, dude’s got chorus skills when he wants.

Production Highlights

Song structure, if that counts. Tempo changes. Killa flow :)

Runner-Ups

Neon Hooligans

Satellite Kids

A Good Nightmare

Our Friends

Past post on Sonny’s American Summer.

Playlist of Favorites

Utopia Too and Closing Thoughts

I’ve had some time to now to listen to the album, amazing the consistent quality of their albums top-to-bottom. Gateway drugs (sorry Sonny :)) into the album are the tracks So What, Colosseum Verses and Flow Pouri.

Lastly, remember these words for the recurring character the Beast at the start of R.o.t.B.: “What happened to The Dean’s List? Why’d they change the group?” Well, The Drive In 2 is confirmed and dropping soon. They did change the group and for the better but this is exciting for fans and hopefully a reawakening of fans from The Deans List days into the artistry of The Kings Dead and the effortless top-of-the-game talent of Sonny Shotz on the mic.

The Kings Dead On the Web