Whether you like his music or not, you have to respect Hot Karl for being himself. As your average white emcee from the suburbs, Karl has embraced the fact that he doesn't fit in the rap game. He's never sold drugs, never shot a gun and he's not a P.I.M.P. He's just Hot Karl, a normal guy with everyday tales of life. Karl first made his mark while he was in college, winning a daily battle on a L.A. radio station for a record 45 days. After that, every major label came knocking on his door. Mack-10 even offered Karl fifty thousand dollars in cash out of his car trunk to sign with Hoo Bangin' Records. Eventually, Karl decided to sign with Interscope Records, as Jimmy Iovine wined and dined him. The label put a lot of steam behind his debut project, as Karl had guest appearances from Kanye West, Redman, Fabolous, Sugar Ray, DJ Quik and Mya. However, as rumor has it, his label mate Eminem was not pleased, and eventually Karl's project was shelved. After his release from Interscope, Karl kept working hard at his craft and now his debut album The Great Escape is finally here.
With his debut, Karl provides a variety of conceptual material that shows his creative flare and ability to make good songs. "Let's Talk" finds Karl playing the role of a hungry emcee not willing to compromise his integrity, and the legendary MC Serch acting as the greedy record executive trying to get Karl to switch up his style. The hilarious track manages to show the bullshit behind the industry, while still being entertaining and funny at the same time. "Just Like Me & You" is a solid storytelling attempt in which Karl depicts a woman named Jean, and her obsession with trying to make it big in Hollywood. "Dreamin" continues the story, in which Jean finally gets a dose of reality on the truth behind her quest for super stardom. Production wise, the song is one of the best on the album, as it features a combination of light and heavy guitar riffs and powerful drums. However, the album's best production work comes from 9th Wonder on "I've Heard." The heartfelt and emotional song finds Karl opening up and telling his story of trying to make it in the Hip Hop game.
While The Great Escape proves Karl has the talent to make noteworthy songs, the production tends to falter in certain spots. "Suburban Superstar's" pop overtone feels forced, as Karl's "jiggy" party rhymes fail to hit the mark. "Kerk Gybson" experiments with an 80's pop sound, and is a little hard to take in. In addition, "Butterface" and "Back/Forth" are more coerced efforts.
Be forewarned, Hot Karl is not for everybody. If you take your music very seriously, then you will probably not understand what Karl has to offer on The Great Escape. While his flow, delivery and rhyme scheme are basic, Karl makes up for it with his conceptual ability and brutal honesty. As stated on one of the album's hilarious skits, don't expect to hear Karl use the Young Gunz "breath pattern," or any new trend setting style. The Great Escape is just Hot Karl, a suburban white guy from California. If you can grasp that, then Karl will ultimately grow on you. Even though Karl could use some help behind the boards, his debut is still a fun filled album with well-crafted material. And in this day and age, we should all be happy to see an emcee with the balls to be himself.