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King Naj – Exactly How We Planned (Album Review)

King Naj recently dropped two singles, “Sleepless in Seattle” and “Black Bentley’s” as part of his roll out for the release of his 6 song EP, Exactly How We Planned. This work is a representation of King Naj’s constant growth as a creative, artist, and songwriter. .

I reached out to King Naj prior to the release of Exactly How We Planned, and asked him about his motivations and inspirations behind every aspect of the album and what significance it holds for what’s to come in his music career. He provided insight that is cohesive to the content of the album and gave a deeper look at his overall intention with the song selection.

He describes the project as a ‘side quest’ on the journey of releasing 2 albums in a year, which started with While You Wait early this year. The songs from Exactly How We Planned are the recordings that didn’t make the first album, but were too fire to be shelved and not enough for a complete album.

So although the process didn’t go exactly as planned, King Naj and his team still managed to release 2 projects in a year, ‘exactly how they planned’.

Exactly How We Planned opens with a poem of spoken word from one of the matriarchs of Charleston poetry, Georgia Nubia. She perfectly embodies the feel of the album, giving us a relateable piece about making plans that don’t go as planned, yet they manifest in a greater way than you could’ve imagined.

Believing in your dream enough to visualize it and obtain it, is one of the central themes of the album. “Sausalito” begins this trend as King Naj explains his ‘thirst for more’ and how he uses the beautiful Sausalito shores of California as inspiration to obtain all that he desires through his passion for hip-hop. Aiding the ins and outs of King Naj’s flow and wordplay is the elegant boutique hip-hop production by Engless.

Travel plays a big role in King Naj’s recent approach with music. This began with While You Wait and the odyssey of him traveling back and forth from Seattle to Charleston in order to perform, record, and release music due to not having too many connections musically in Seattle.

Exactly How We Planned serves as a message to Naj’s Charleston fanbase that he’s still on the move and pays homage to the scene that made him. Songs like “Sleepless in Seattle” fully hold this concept and shows the influence Charleston has on his artistry.

He touches on this with the dynamic instrumentation and ‘Free Nationals’ type thump of “Only Way Is Up” produced by AWSME J. The feeling of being down and experiencing the lows of life and trauma and using that as the rain that makes his flower of life blossom…and in order for a flower to grow it must raise UP out of the dirt that holds its roots.

The second half of the EP includes his two single releases, “Sleepless in Seattle” and “Black Bentley’s”. In between these two tracks is “Heartbeat (For Keeps)” featuring The O. The two emcees provide a parallel between how the streets ‘play for keeps’ and how they individually ‘play for keeps’ with their determination, groundwork, and commitment to their journey as professional artists.

As we cross the finish line of Exactly How We Planned, we hear the cold, gritty boom bap of “Black Bentleys”. King Naj concludes the album with bravado, wisdom, and learned life lessons, as he sharply delivers a crescendo of all of the concepts throughout the album and vows to not only get where HE’S trying to go, but to also take care of his people as well.

This #GxldApproved album is an example of what it means to constantly elevate and get better at your craft. You can hear the comfort in King Naj’s flow and delivery and that he’s finding a pocket with creating his own unique sound, while implementing influences like Nas, Jay-Z, and even Biggie Smalls.

Check out Exactly How We Planned below, peep the “Sleepless in Seattle” music video and tap in to the world of King Naj.