You’d be hard pressed to find someone with a more diverse set of interests and hobbies than Kelen Conley (AKA B Hyphen). When he isn’t busy recording music, writing articles, or whipping up the latest episode of his favorite podcast, Hyphen finds his musical inspiration in everything from wrestling and movies to television shows and comics.
For his fans, B Hyphen’s unique blend of over-the-top braggadocio, pop culture references, and genuine passion for his projects have always been what sets him apart from cookie-cutter emcees who rap about so-called “safe subjects”. Hyphen’s lyrics have always been a very natural extension of his personality, with entertaining exaggerations from time to time to keep his hip-hop persona intact.
That is a continuing trend with Hyphen’s first official album, Soon You’ll Understand (SYU). This 10 track project features fully-original production from local West Virginia producers as well as a feature from Morgantown emcee, Young Thack.
The production imbues a distinctive East Coast vibe complete with sampling and heavy use of strings, guitar, and flute. A solid arrangement of fast and slow beats keeps the album moving at a good pace and the recording quality is above average.
Hyphen’s enunciation and delivery make it easy to distinguish what he’s saying so he doesn’t have to compete with the beat for the listener’s attention. Not only does his approach incorporate more bite and attack than previous projects, but he projects the words with more emotion and attitude on this CD – especially on faster songs like “Better With Bacon” and “’Fit Jammin’”.
Hyphen’s radio and podcast influence appears from time to time via Hyphen’s intros and outros. It’s almost as if he is involving his audience in the creative process and providing them with an off-the-cuff commentary on the making of the album as it’s recorded. His conversational tone gives the album a warmer and more approachable character than the average hip-hop album.
The album begins with “A Journey of Great Power & Responsibility” which cleverly stitches together a powerful quote from the Spider-Man comic books with the beat’s sample – the rock band Journey. 227 Digitalmasterz stretches “Mother, Father” into an adrenaline pumping mix of wailing guitar and synthesizer. Hyphen first brings up his battles with his hip-hop career with this track saying:
Writing this album, my whole life, my baby/
It's grown up, it’s moving/ and I'll be all alone/
Life crisis at 30/ Think I'll get a sports car/
Or get a new hobby - one that won't break my heart/
Hyphen really lets his swagger shine on tracks like “Better With Bacon”, “'Fit Jammin'”, & “Limited Edition”. All of these were written with stage performances in mind and they really sound like they can get the crowd moving. These three are also the most memorable and clear cut singles off of the album – with a special mention to “Limited Edition” because it happens to be my favorite track.
Profit Money’s trademark violin melodies and heavy bass lines combine with an upbeat Hyphen flow on “No Room For Squares”. B Hyphen comes out swinging with lines like:
No room for squares here, mountaintop is the pinnacle/
Original the ritual, though mind over physical/
And it's detrimental, to know the handshake/
Or miss your invite to the annual clambake/
After the original track fades out, an additional 2 ½ minute break follows with a bass accompaniment.
Other tracks such as “Rewind, “Independent Headspace,” & “Winter’s Lament” are more modest tracks that slow the pace down and allow Hyphen to recount memories that we can all relate to such as his early adventures in dating, missed connections, fitting in, and vacation withdrawal. These tracks really humanize him and allow him to tell us some of his more humorous stories.
The two songs on the latter half of his album – “Legacy” & “World Without The Hyphen” – talk about his decision to leave hip-hop behind. These tracks are pertinent to rappers, musicians, and creative people in general because it talks about the struggle between loving what you do and being successful at what you love to do. It’s a theme that comes up several times on the album and it’s obviously a subject of great importance to Hyphen.
Timothy Dalton’s exceptional selection of bells and abrasive violins on “Legacy” sets a serious tone for Hyphen to rap over:
(What will I really be known for?)/
Will it be scribbling these rhymes, will it be this voice of mine?/
(What can the people hold on to?)/
Besides their memories of me, is there something they can touch or see?/
(Or will they even remember?)/
Am I just a memory in time and someone who just slips their mind/
The Lip Beats produced “World Without The Hyphen” samples Lazlo Bane’s song “Superman” which you may recognize as the theme song to Scrubs. The banjo gives the track a lighthearted touch as B Hyphen recounts his good and bad experiences with music:
So many friends made, and so many nights drinking/
So many jam sessions, so many times bitching/
So many rhymes lost and corrupted audio files/
So much time missed, trying to get that one line/
Soon You’ll Understand showcases so many of Hyphen’s strengths as he continues to push the status quo in his career. Support his work by downloading SYU here and following him on his Twitter account here. As always, keep it real Trike fans!
- A Journey Of Great Power & Responsibility (Produced by 227 Digitalmasterz)
- Better With Bacon (The Hyphen) (Produced by B.A.C.O.N. Beats)
- No Room For Squares (Produced by Profit Money)
- Rewind (Produced by 95)
- 'Fit Jammin' (Produced by Profit Money)
- Legacy (Produced by Timothy Dalton)
- Limited Edition (No Competition) Ft. Young Thack (Produced by 95)
- Winter's Lament (Miami's Gone) (Produced by Lip Beats)
- Independent Headspace (Produced by 95)
- World Without The Hyphen (Produced by Lip Beats)
Originally posted on Tricycle Offense.
Read more of Justin's work over at the Trike and at I Quit Cold.