Stylized illustration depicting Kenny Mason’s head. Mason released his newest album, “RUFFS” in September 2022. Illustration by Everette Cogswell. 

On Sept. 28 2022, Kenny Mason dropped his third studio album, “RUFFS.” It’s a diverse album, containing many styles of rap and the occasional pop song. Mason uses a mix of unique samples and vocal delivery. Every song on this album was co-produced by Mason, and the album truly shows off his talent as a rapper and artist. 

“ZOOMIES,” the first track on the album, opens off the bat with a distorted guitar chop, and jumps straight into fast lyricism from Mason, with the 808 (the bass) perfectly complimenting his flow. Despite this track having the most boring hi-hat and clap pattern, it bounces perfectly with the track as a whole. Mason’s rapping in this song is also crazy good. I wouldn’t change anything about this song, it’s pretty perfect. 9/10.

In stark contrast to “ZOOMIES,” “HALOS” opens with an angelic sample with a vinyl equalizer (EQ), a tool that adjusts individual frequencies, on top of it, giving it a 90s rap or Ye’s “Follow God” vibe. Next comes Mason’s rapping over the sample, followed by a low-cut Reese bass, which gives a roomy vibe to the track. Around halfway through “HALOS,” the song switches to a more trappy Kendrick-esque flow. Overall, this song was really solid, although I wasn’t that big a fan of the switch up. 7/10.

Track three, “HALLOWEEN,” is a very dreamy, ethereal, and atmospheric song with a brain-itching guitar to start it off. I felt like I was floating throughout this track with the way the drums worked with the guitar, and the overall spacy sound of the mix. The part where he had a growly voice also hit so hard. One critique I have for this track is that the sample wasn’t really EQ’d properly and a lot of low-end frequencies were bleeding through, making the mix muddy at some points due to the clashing of the sample and the 808. Overall this track was super good. 9/10.

“DIP!” (feat. DavidTheTragic) is such an interesting track. The beat feels like it was made at three am with its delirious feel, and the vocals perfectly complement that. Mason’s voice worked so well with the vibe of this track. Although DavidTheTragic’s lyrics weren’t completely coherent, his voice matched the song very well. I don’t really have a lot of comments on this one; it feels like a song to listen to during a late night shower. 8/10.

“MINUTE FOREVER” is your classic rage song, sounding similar to a beat in the style of rapper Trippie Redd, with the use of a distorted guitar over top the lead. Mason’s rapping on this song didn’t feel too strong; I wish he would have sounded a bit more enthusiastic because the song would have been much more intriguing and ear-catching. The mixing was good and it’s still an overall good track. 7/10.

“DOUBLE UP” starts with a simple saturated pluck that leads into a laid back beat with Mason’s laid-back vocals. I was slightly annoyed by the number of times he said “double up” but I enjoyed his flow nonetheless. Mason’s more energetic vocal switch up in the last third of the song was good. Coupe, the producer of “DOUBLE UP,” really shows off his mixing skills because it was clean on this track. 8/10.

Originally “RX” (feat. Amandi) confused me. At first I couldn’t quite follow the sample very well, it was slightly disorienting, and weirdly annoying, because of the way it was chopped up, but later on the track it fit better. Amandi’s vocals on this track were so good but I didn’t really like how they pitched and re-formatted Mason’s vocals. Overall very airy and viby, another late-night song that hits. The mixing was  clean which is really a plus for most of the album. 8/10.

“SPIN N FLIP” (feat. Young Nudy) has a weird glitchy sample that works very well. I’m an avid Nudy fan and I love every feature that he’s on, he just works so well on this dreamy, ethereal song. Mason’s vocals on this track also work really well. One critique I have is that the hi-hats (cymbals) on this song are really boring, and make Nudy sound like he’s underwater because of the way his vocals are recorded and mixed, 9/10.

“MAMA DON’T KNOW” starts off with the sounds of a mysterious 50s cop show, mixed with flipped audio clips of trumpets. The drums on this song were clean and the mixing was perfect. I really enjoyed when Mason did a baby voice, reminding me of the rapper Cochise. Overall this song was really good. 9/10.

Right off the bat “NOSEDIVE” (feat. Jean Dawson) was hit with some distorted guitars that reminded me of Playboi Carti’s tour intros. The energy of Mason and Dawson was crazy on this track; they complimented the beat perfectly. The guitars were just perfect, but one critique I have is Mason did his chilled-out singing at some points and it didn’t match the rest of the song. Overall a good track. 9.5/10.

One of the reasons the track “333/ATOM” stands out is because it contains two separate songs, “333” and “ATOM.” “333” uses a really weird distorted wa-wa guitar as its sample and I’m not really sure if I love it or hate it. Mason’s sing-rapping on “333” was really good and I love the use of the effects rack, a mixing tool used by producers, that Mason has on his voice. “ATOM,” on the other hand, isn’t as good as “333.” Mason’s flow and octave walking got on my nerves. The drums and the sample were good so it kept me interested. Solid track. 7/10.

“BOA” uses an interesting sound from a digital clip of a Rhodes piano, a type of small electric piano, for its sample, and the beat reminds me of songs by rapper Pi’erre Bourne. Mason has a solid vocal performance on this track and I really liked his yelling. 9/10.

“GIVENCHY” has a laid-back arp (arpeggiator) for its sample, and I love how it sped up when the beat hit. Mason’s vocals on this track were so so good, although I don’t really like the growly voice he was using on this song, it doesn’t really fit. I enjoyed this track and I don’t have a lot to say, other than it was really hype. 8.5/10.

“BLACK HEART” uses pitched-down strings and clips of people talking as its sample, and I honestly don’t like it. This track genuinely annoyed me. Mason’s vocal performance was solid, and the mixing was good, but that’s really what kept me interested; I couldn’t get over the sample. Not that great of a track. 4/10.

“SHELL” reminded me of “HALOS” because it used a sample that sounded like something BigXthaPlug would use, due to its older, more jazzy feel. I love the way Mason sounds on these types of songs, he delivers so well and matches these upbeat viby songs . “SHELL” wasn’t perfect because the snare on this track was kind of annoying. 9/10. 

“WESTSIDE” might be the best track on this project. Its pitched-down acoustic guitar and singing as its sample reminded me of an upbeat “Jocelyn Flores,” the popular song by XXXTENTACION. The drums and 808 had such a vibe, and I loved Mason trying out a more pop style song. His vocal delivery was so good and I loved his singing. The mixing was just perfect and I have no complaints about this track. 10/10.

Overall, this album was really good, I enjoyed Mason’s vocal performance on almost every track, most of the beats were really unique and catchy, and the mixing was just superb overall. This project really struck a chord with me and I thoroughly enjoyed it all the way through, I recommend you give it a listen yourself.

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