Until earlier this year Los Angeles' Cali Swag District was best-known for "Teach Me How to Dougie," the 2010 hip-hop hit whose various viral videos have racked up tens of millions of views on YouTube. On May 15, though, the rap foursome's reputation changed dramatically when its 22-year-old dancer, Montae Talbert (known as M-Bone), was killed in a drive-by shooting. Cali Swag District's surviving members memorialize M-Bone in the artwork of The Kickback, the group's debut full-length, which was originally set for release last year through Capitol before arriving in stores independently through a distribution deal with Sony RED. That dedication is a rare glimmer of gravity on a set filled with buzzy, lightweight odes to whips ("Burn Out [Drive Fast]"), women ("I'm Freaking You") and weed ("I Don't Need Your Money"). In the Rick Ross-sampling "Roof Back" the group economizes, rolling all three interests into one track, and the result feels like a postcard from simpler days.
Cali Swag District, "The Kickback"
- Album Review