For the past five years, a strong undercurrent of belief implied hip hop and rap had superseded the power of pop. Not so, says alternative hip-hop artist King Dylan who released his 10th album on Friday, Sept. 17.
King Dylan, aka Dylan Roberts, describes To the Ones Who Let Go as an 11-track of rap-pop hybrids about “people who free themselves from whatever might be holding them back — relationships, friends, mental issues. It might even be yourself,” said the Paul Kane High graduate.
The St. Albert hometown boy now based in Calgary has spent the last two decades polishing his satirical hip-hop signature style. With vocals that shift quickly, he ricochets lyrics from gentle to vicious in the span of a heartbeat. But with this album’s softer pop influences, the occasional heavy riffs are smoothed over with lighter, upbeat choruses.
A serious shift to a pop hybrid occurred after King Dylan received Calgary's 2017 YYC Pop Recording of the Year and Music Video of the Year for his single Untouchable. In a second win, King Dylan also took home hardware for In the Darkness We Can Shine, YYC’s 2020 Pop Recording of the Year.
“It was a surprise, but I think I kind of found my niche, and thought I should explore it more.”
One number on the new album, All I’ve Got, speaks to the core of Robert’s being. The motivational anthem touches on intrinsic values of persistence and refusing to give up, especially when times are tough, both as an artist and as a human being.
“All the songs were written by me and related to different times in my life. They’re all personal. It’s a range of relationships. It’s all about humanity and the environment.”
Nasty Truth is a dark track that harkens to inner conflict. Party in the Sky toasts friendships past and present, while Just a Little Somethin’ is all about finding your happy place and reconnecting spiritually after a loss.
Five songs were penned during the pandemic lockdown. To keep the creative juices flowing, Roberts joined online challenges that required him to write fresh material, record, and produce a song in eight hours.
“[Challenges] spawned a bunch of songs. I probably wouldn’t have this album if it wasn’t for COVID.”
While King Dylan is at times over-the-top, Dylan Roberts quietly champions the environment. Earlier this year, he completed a $2,800 crowd-funding campaign to raise funds for a vinyl release. With each donation, Roberts offered to plant 10 trees though OneTreePlanting.org. So far, 300 trees were planted in British Columbia where large swaths of terrain were ravaged by fire this past summer.
“Vinyl takes up a lot more resources — paper and plastic compared to a download. I just wanted to give something back to the environment.”