In his first full-album effort, Ithaca rapper Anthony Kannon delivered a striking official introduction of himself, putting out an album that sounds far more mature than a typical debut. It’s a project loaded with lyrics to the point it may take a few listens to digest them all, but luckily each replay is enjoyable.
The album, titled Color Blind, is available on essentially all major streaming platforms, including Spotify, Tidal (no link available) and Apple Music, and Kannon, whose real name is Anthony Henry, is selling physical copies as well.
It’s a debut that doesn’t sound like the more conventional releases one might hear when perusing the internet today. The production is clean throughout, using a selection of beats primarily purchased over the web. Kannon is also endlessly lyrical, packing so much into his bars that it can be tough to keep up. While some rappers are criticized, somewhat justifiably, for using complex lyrical schemes or rapid flows to cover up for a lack of meaningful content, Kannon’s able to deliver quick, attention-demanding lines that aren’t just nonsense, but also don’t detract from the album’s more fun, braggadocious moments. Frankly, it’s a risky balance, but he pulls it off seamlessly.
One thing that’s clear, both when asking Kannon and from his lyrics, is that he’s not satisfied with being pigeonholed for certain parts of his personal story. Kannon is black, but very light-skinned, something he said has been a struggle to deal with while rapping since people often perceive him as white. He addresses some of that tension in the album-opening title track “Color Blind,” rapping that he’s got “the lightest skin that you’ve ever seen, still glad to be black.” It’s a gutsy way to start an album, particularly his first, but it’s a stellar introduction to a good first track.
Beyond that, Kannon also suffered a gunshot wound several months ago, which served as another hurdle to overcome. But again, Kannon does not want to let the experience define him, either as a person or as an artist: he calls out those responsible, and several references can be heard in the chorus of “Superman.” But, though Kannon admits the incident dominated his mind and his pen for quite a while after, he again successfully avoids allowing it to derail the album.
Arguably the album’s most impactful song is “Blue.” It’s a true tour de force, the kind of song with just enough humor to make you chuckle at the start, then immediately hit you with an unexpected blow of reality, which don’t stop. That’s probably best exemplified by the very opening line: “I’m from a pretty city of hippies and self-pity/There’s too much irony in my life to be straight-forward/Drug addiction is a real serious mental illness/And my whole life I done paid for it,” referencing his mother’s struggles with a drug problem that affected his early life. It’s a gut-wrenching listen, but never to the point of discomfort. Truthfully, it’s like hearing a friend vent after keeping quiet for too long. His relationship with his mom comes up a few times on the album, with Kannon even acknowledging he connected with Eminem’s early music due to his anger at his mother (a hallmark of Eminem’s first two albums).
Other highlights from the album include “Reflections,” another deeply personal track, and “Crash,” which has a beat that will threaten your computer’s speakers. The most romantic moment is “One in a Million,” which features Matthew Cornwell singing.
The album is light on features in general, though there’s also a very impressive guest spot by Promise NYC that comes through on the album’s second track. Kannon only has one feature from a local artist, the verse delivered by Mr. McBean (real name Kelsey McBean) on “Superman,” which he said was actually a purposeful choice and an homage to McBean’s influence on his career to this point (Kannon calls him the “Yoda” of his musical path).
Kannon’s also sure to emphasize how important other people have been to his career, particularly local hip-hop label Smacked Records and most of all his dad, who encouraged him to keep writing rhymes from a very young age and introduced him to the local music scene. He also noted Ithaca artists Dimitri Robinson (who raps as “Meech”) and the Gunpoets as large influences on his music.
Color Blind is not, as Kannon puts it, fast-food music. Music, he said, saved his life after all, and keeping that in his mind seems to mean there’s always going to be depth and a little more seriousness when Kannon writes a verse.
“This piece of paper will never judge me,” Kannon said of his comfort talking about sensitive parts of his life in his music. “It’ll never say anything back. I can just talk to it forever.”
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