On Christmas Eve, two months after releasing the single “Let Them,” Swedish electronic band jj released the mix tape Kills for free on their record label’s Web site. A long-awaited musical Christmas present, Kills is a concoction of contemporary R&B and rap samples layered under and over jj’s smooth electro-pop. Simply, jj takes some favorite bits and pieces and sing along with their own twist. If The xx were to cover The Notorious B.I.G., this is what it would sound like. Although it comes off as somewhat gimmicky, with Elin Kastlander’s warm alto and jj’s keen ear and musicality, the mix tape’s execution is flawless.
The first half of the mix tape is the catchiest, with samples from Akon’s “Right Now (Na Na Na)” and M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes.” One of the best tracks is “New Work,” which evenly divides the mix tape and samples the piano melody from Jay-Z’s “Empire State Of Mind.” Despite its play on words, the track has nothing to do with the Empire State but rather the agony of nostalgia. It’s heavy stuff, but the jaunty piano and effervescent beat make you think otherwise.
Most of the album is not quite as serious, though. As for the track “Kill You,” jj continues the weed fixation begun in the opening track “Still.” While “Kill You” comes off as mopey and sounds more like an emo kid complaining about life than Snoop Dogg rollin’ down the street smoking indo, “Still” captures the true thug lifestyle with tongue planted firmly in cheek. “Still” sets up the mix tape for what it is: fun, sometimes serious and often hilarious. The last few lines of the track say it best: “You’d think I have a hit list / that’s Drake, well we love young money bizniz / ‘cause we’re young and we get money.” I love a pair of Swedes who can be a little gangster.
The second half of the mix tape is more slow and droning; at the end of the track “Believe” there’s an interview of Nicki Minaj talking about Lil’ Kim as an R&B hook plays in the background. The mix tape comes back for a grand finale with the climatic penultimate track “Boom” and the finale “High End” — both of which sample Kanye West’s recent triumph My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. “High End” samples both the opening track of West’s album, “Dark Fantasy” and the recent single, “Runaway.” The only lyrics in the song are West’s lyrics, “Can we get much higher?” It is as simple as Elin Kastlander humming a melody. The duo jj sings along with Kanye West. It becomes clear that despite its frivolity, the mix tape is a personal endeavor for the band.
The idea of a free mix tape is fantastic in and of itself, and Kills is so enjoyable I just want to shower jj and their record label Sincerely Yours with a hail of gratitude.