In an era of constant rebrands, consistency can be refreshing. It’s particularly admirable when an artist who has spent their career carving out a distinct regional sound continues to deliver what fans want without feeling the need to switch it up for a new demographic.
One such Bay Area loyalist is Kool John, the Heartbreak Gang rap crew ambassador and self-proclaimed “OG in the game” with “gray hairs, mayne,” who has once again dished out his style of Northern California slaps for local ears.
The rapper’s latest effort, Up All Night 3, is proof of his 10-toes-down approach to “mainey nights” music. As the title suggests, it’s an after-hours soundtrack for neon-pooled outings. With album cover art that pays tribute to strip club addictions, it also conjures notions of Too $hort’s former label, Up All Nite, which spotlighted artists such as East Palo Alto’s Dem Hoodstarz and Berkeley’s The Pack for their house party exploits. Kool John is a continuation of that energy.
A “real Richmond” representative, Kool John stays true to his compass, never veering off course from the post-Hyphy, Hennessy-drenched flows he’s been delivering since his 2013 debut, Peace, Love, Shmoplife. Now nine albums deep, he’s capping off his Up All Night “trilogy” — which he kicked off in 2017 — with his smiley-face-with-sunglasses motif. Do not press play on this Kool John album expecting to be profoundly mindblown by poetic lyricism or insightful commentary; instead, embrace the wave of restrained coolness, sexual boasting and money-filled conquests typical of an HBK Gang offering.