In the early '80s, a group called Funky Four Plus One surfaced as one of the first hip-hop groups to include a female emcee surrounded by a group of guys. Nearly three decades later, the same thing happens at N.C. State: This time, they call themselves Kooley High, a crew with three emcees—Tab-One and Charlie Smarts (both of Inflowential) with Rapsody (the "Plus One")—and two producers—Foolery and The Sinopsis. With this debut, Kooley High sounds less like a hip-hop contrivance with a stately objective and more like a few hip-hop fans who decided to get together one night, goof-off and rap to some beats. Thing is, they can actually make good songs.
Summer Sessions has no real direction, but it's not supposed to. On tracks like "We Be That," "Back Home" and "I Wanna," Kooley High's production team decorates the song with utility snares, stringing together the emcees' sportive anecdotes about life, love and fun, hardly acknowledging that such a thing barely exists in today's pissing-contest hip hop. The meanest moment of the EP lands when 9th Wonder produces "Water" and brings along fellow Justus League member Edgar Allen Floe (pun intended?). Rapsody and Charlie Smarts are at their finest here, capturing the devilish nature of 9th's drums with their words and ultimately matching a behemoth final verse by E.A. Floe.
Kooley High isn't groundbreaking here, but it is a relief to hear a hip-hop group that doesn't take themselves so damn seriously, and, ultimately, this EP could better serve as a springboard for its members' solo efforts. But until that graduation, Kooley High sounds like a fine school for some fresh edutainment.
Kooley High throws a release party for the Summer Sessions EP March 27 at The Pour House with Skyzoo.