In the landscape of hip-hop, where vulnerability often intertwines with bravado, King Iso emerges as a figure unafraid to face his own shadows. In his latest record, set to release this Friday, October 27th, the Omaha-native delves into topics that skirt the periphery of mainstream rap but are central to the human experience—mental health, personal demons, and the wrestle for inner peace. It’s a significant entry into a discography already laden with impactful tracks.
King Iso’s journey has been anything but ordinary, peppered with stark contrasts—going from homelessness to a recording deal with Strange Music, and from psychiatric hospitals to concert stages across the nation. He has one of the most incredible and inspiring stories that I have ever heard. While his trajectory is indeed extraordinary, it’s his sincerity and unfiltered reflections on mental struggles that elevate him beyond a mere rap artist to something closer to a social commentator.
I’ve personally been an Isoldier for some time now and, frankly, the man doesn’t disappoint. The anticipation had been building up to this new album, as has a ton of tracks. What sets him apart is his unique take on themes that resonate on a profoundly personal level—particularly mental health. Currently, Iso is touring with Tech N9ne and Hollywood Undead, and fans lucky enough to catch them live have had the chance to snag an early copy of the album at the merchandise stands.
And in this musical climate where tackling complex subject matter can often be a risky gamble, King Iso does it with an air of genuineness that grabs your attention. ‘iLLdren’ is an excavation of the soul, a clarion call to confront what most shy away from. With this album, King Iso is setting the bar into orbit.
As the curtains rise on the album, we’re greeted with a one-minute introduction that serves as the prelude to the album’s inaugural track, “Feel,” featuring Tech N9ne and Matt Phoenix. The song plunges you right into a tale that grapples with the trials of youth, substance abuse, and the emotional void that often accompanies such experiences. In other words, that ‘numb’ feeling.
Contributions from Tech N9ne and Matt Phoenix on this track are great, each bringing their distinct elements to a composition that already thrives on its depth. Tech N9ne, renowned for his intricate wordplay and great delivery adds a lot amplifying its emotional intensity. Matt Phoenix, on the other hand, complements this with a mix of vocal harmony that enriches the overall impact.
And speaking of youth, the track ‘Young’ unpacks the complexities and tribulations of youth. It’s a rollercoaster of lived experiences, diving into themes of lost innocence, family dynamics, and the struggle for survival. King Iso doesn’t hold back; he gives us a front-row seat into his turbulent younger years. Lines like “Shoutout to my mama, that’s the one that made me / Never met my real father, had someone else raise me” speak volumes about the often-complicated family structures that contribute to one’s upbringing. And the appreciation of having an incredible strong mother there to guide you.
The track is a real heavy hitter that provides a stark, unfiltered view into the trials and tribulations of youth. It’s a story about survival, mental health, and the power of resilience, packed in a delivery that’s as real as it gets. Along with being a collection of personal anecdotes; the track also serves as a cautionary tale for the younger generation. “Young” is a track that will resonate with those who have faced similar struggles or those seeking to understand them better.
And on tracks like “Nightmare,” King Iso talks about sobering realities of life, inner demons, mental health, and existential crises. “One day I’ll wake, one day I’ll pray / One day I’ll wake up from this nightmare,” is like this haunting call for a break, a moment of rest from what seems like a relentless sequence of trials. It’s a catchy refrain, but really it seems more and more like a desperate prayer, cycling through the song like a mantra. The track is reminder that even in our dreams, reality finds a way to creep in.
‘Way You Are’ is another standout track on the album (which is packed with them, by the way) on what it means to be ‘different’ in a world often intolerant of difference. It aims to strip away societal stigmas associated with mental health and, in particular, conditions like autism and OCD. The song takes a personal angle—King Iso delves into his own experiences and struggles with OCD, pointing to the realities many face when navigating life with a mental health condition or a neurological difference.
He takes a scalpel to the system, criticizing the way mental health is perceived and handled, often reduced to mere labels and stereotypes. He talks about his own mental state as a lens through which he relates to others who are going through similar struggles. The second verse seems like a heartfelt letter to his child, expressing fears that society might impose its judgments on a new generation.
King Iso wants better for his child and all children — a world that accepts them for who they are. He pleads for a celebration of individuality rather than an imposition of conformity. The verse taps into the worries of every parent who fears their child might be misunderstood. Wrapping up with an outro that serves as a rallying cry, King Iso speaks directly to those “on the spectrum, or dealing with autism.” He breaks down societal illusions that equate ‘different’ with ‘sick,’ championing the belief that everyone is “fine just the way you are.”
King Iso’s ‘iLLdren’ validates the notion that musical artistry is still a haven for masterful storytelling. King has a knack for words that few possess. It’s like every line is carefully crafted, every word weighted with intent. His eloquence and lyrical agility are not just superficial displays of technical skill; they’re the vessel through which he channels complex emotions and social critiques. His tracks feel like chapters in an overarching tale, seamlessly flowing from personal tales of hardship to broader, anthemic calls for change and acceptance.
As for the inspirational aspect, this album is a veritable treasure trove. It provides a boost of spirit and morale. The tracks are empowering, motivating anyone who’s been knocked down by life’s trials to get up and fight another day. It’s an open invitation to find solace and strength through shared experience. Whether it’s the story of his past battles with mental health or his call to embrace individuality, I feel like each song offers its own form of emotional sustenance.
It’s a record filled with songs that are also life lessons. With this album, King Iso proves that he’s not just a rapper; he’s a modern-day bard whose tales are as enlightening as they are entertaining.