I Know Nigo; rather, I Know Nigo. Fashion Designer and Teriyaki Boyz DJ Nigo’s new album is relaying a statement beneath the featured artist’s verses–I Know Nigo. Think of Nigo as the conductor that weaves a path designed to keep a sense of authenticity to let everyone triumph. Nigo’s presence and influence are immense, specifically with fashion–creating A Bathing Ape or BAPE and Billionaire Boys Club with Pharrell and Rob Walker. His new album comes at a turn of his career, becoming the new artistic director for KENZO. I Know Nigo is a collection of tracks that express Nigo’s prominence in Hip-Hop culture as he curates a soundtrack that delivers on the message: “I Know Nigo,” even when some songs don’t land.
I Know Nigo is like a B-level roller coaster ride where the highs get you going, but the lows confuse you. What confuses you about the lows are the features and the kind of A-Game they try to bring into the fold. The production on the album is stellar, with work ranging from The Neptunes to AXL Beats and CuBeatz, to name a few. So you’ll hear great consistency in tone, but there is inconsistency in verses, particularly with rappers you’d least expect, like Pharrell and Kid Cudi. When I Know Nigo veers onto the rocky road, you’ll hear Pharrell’s poor chorus delivery on “Paper Planes” and mundane verse on “Functional Addict,” which ultimately leads to a forgettable verse by Gunna. Kid Cudi does similarly on “Want It Bad,” and it doesn’t benefit from an overabundance of autotune. His verse lacks depth and stands as a boring flex that gets lost with the power the production brings on all fronts.
Fortunately, there are momentous highs, some of which feel expected, and others that remind you why we shouldn’t forget them, like A$AP Rocky. To hear him spread his emcee wings brings life to “Arya,” which has a sound akin to his LongLiveA$AP/AtLongLastA$AP era. Equally as surprising is A$AP Ferg, whose last album, 2020’s Floor Seats II was boring. Ferg makes up for the off-kilter chorus by Pharrell, but it isn’t enough. More than that, the music has a consistent flair that keeps you entrenched in the sounds for all 32 minutes. Unfortunately, it passes by quickly, and that understanding of Nigo will fade.
The production is always fresh and stays on its toes. There are upticks and low ticks, but it is far from what we conceive as an album model. It’s more a soundtrack that fits that notion of knowing Nigo. There were snippets heard at his fashion show in January for KENZO–in the grand scheme, it fits to personify his influence on hip-hop culture. The various eras blend together and acquiesce as we see artists do more adventurous things. Lil Uzi Vert makes a trap song with Nigo, producing genuine hyphy. Similarly, Clipse comes in and delivers an impactful combination of flows that makes Pusha T’s other track somewhat of an afterthought.
However, Pop Smoke, Tyler, the Creator, and the Teriyaki Boyz, came with more heat than the others. The Pop Smoke track, “Remember,” is respectable and highlights the talent of Pop Smoke, which his last posthumous album failed to show. Pop Smoke’s braggadocio flex-rap are fresh and tip the needle of repeatability as the production perfectly acquiesces with his drill-like flow. Comparatively, Tyler the Creator brings a lot of swagger, especially with the final track, “Come On, Let’s Go,” as he continues to express dominance post Call Me If You Get Lost. Though nothing hit as great as Teriyaki Boyz’s track, “Morë Tonight.” It buoys a powerful production from Pharrell, incorporating these glossy synths and percussion, while the Teriyaki Boyz remind us why it’s a pleasure when they grace us with new music.
It’s what these rappers do with the production that elevates the tracks, and for the most part, they do. We get diverging streams of hip-hop that fit the mold curated by Nigo, but there are moments that we want to skip and skip until we reach something that hits. Unfortunately, it happens more often than not. I Know Nigo has enough for fans to enjoy, but it won’t be for the masses.