On his third album, Full Speed, Los Angeles rapper Kid Ink continues an unlikely transformation from also-ran to chart star. Ink is a workmanlike and often indistinct rhymer: His wordplay is always dependably mannered, the melodies are conventional, and the songs feel more like treading water than paddling out. Early releases dropped without waves, but Ink’s buzz warmed as he waded into dance-rap, hitting his stride and cracking the charts with the Chris Brown-assisted “Main Chick” and DJ Mustard-helmed Hot 100 smash “Show Me,” both off 2013’s My Own Lane.
Kid Ink Sets Record For Most Weeks at No. 1 on Rap Airplay Chart
Ink has clearly studied his success, and it feels strategic that Full Speed is sardine-packed with star collaborators. Mustard crafts two cuts, including the cucumber-cool “About Mine,” which features Trey Songz; producer Nic Nac rehashes aspects of his signature smash (Brown’s “Loyal”) on “Dolo” featuring R. Kelly. The LP’s famous co-conspirators often drag Ink out of his comfort zone, pushing him into tighter melodies (Usher and Tinashe on “Body Language”); elsewhere, they arrive with a hook undeniable enough to keep the whole song afloat (DeJ Loaf on “Be Real”).
Still, to give his collaborators full credit for the album’s bright spots isn’t entirely just. Ink balances and sharpens his many nightlife-focused tracks with a smart conciseness and delivers deeper, more inspired lyrical turns on opener “What It Feels Like” and the gleeful drug anthem “Blunted.” Most of these cuts are done in three minutes, and the album proper clocks in at a manageable 40. His rap peers could learn something from this streamlined approach.
This story will appear in the Feb. 14 issue of Billboard.