When Kil Ripkin and Jah Freedom began working on their first collaborative EP, Self Medicate, last year, they had no idea just how relevant the themes of healing braided throughout the project would be by the time it was finished.
On Charlotte rapper Ripkin’s last album, The Force, he had dealt with some personal issues, and he wanted his follow-up to take on the concept of recovery. Now, as millions around the country find time for self-reflection, it seems his newest title track comes at just the right time.
“With this one I just wanted to heal, without even knowing that we’d be going through this crazy time and all of that,” Ripkin told Queen City Nerve over the phone. “We had no idea this was going to take place. My whole idea was just when people hit play it just takes them away from whatever’s stressing them out, without thinking too much.”
Though the project is finished, Ripkin and producer Freedom have put it on pause for the time being. Brooklyn-native Ripkin has a large following in NYC and other cities like Chicago, so to drop a project and not be able to do gigs and radio spots just wouldn’t be smart, Ripkin said, but the two did drop the “Self Medicate” single to give us a taste of the healing powers to come.
The track plays well to Ripkin’s straightforward New York style, which he’s kept true to despite living in Charlotte for 13 years. The video, produced by Kevin Staggers, takes a simplistic, stripped-down approach, with Ripkin rapping inside an abandoned mental hospital in South Carolina. There are symbolistic uses of colors (think chakras) and some effects thrown in, with Freedom ghosting in and out of the frame at times, but for the most part, it’s just hip-hop music on display.
“It’s a two-verse song, it’s not that long, so I didn’t want to put too much in such a short period of time, where you have people going all over the place trying to figure out what’s going on,” Ripkin said of the simplistic approach. “It’s really about the music and the lyrics. That was my approach.”
Ripkin and Freedom will play it by ear to decide on a smart time to release the full project, so stay tuned, and be sure to check out the next print issue of Queen City Nerve, out April 8, for a feature story on the duo’s collaborative process for the upcoming EP.