Bicoastal duo stays cool
Keelay & Zaire may be a bicoastal production duo, but their collective sound is heavily rooted in the West Coast soul vibe. On the pair''s debut, Ridin High, they gather a mass of MCs—some unknown and others recognizable—for an organic take on smoothed-out hip-hop.
From the get-go, Keelay & Zaire''s production is highlighted by rich instrumentation. Songs like “Take a Ride” benefit from the live-meets-programmed formula that this duo regularly implements. Still, amid the quality production of soulful singles such as “Alright With Me” (featuring Dminor and Phonte), there isn''t always enough here to make the material stand apart from other R&B-flavored hip-hop that''s out today. To the duo''s credit, they do try to create beats that exist outside of their familiar soul vibe. Such is the case with the tuba-tinged “I Used to Ride”—a Fortilive- and Saafir-assisted single that features an undeniably original loop. For what Keelay & Zaire set out to accomplish here with the chill and organic vibes, they no doubt succeed. But next time around, they would benefit from developing their sound just a little further. [3 out of 5 stars]