Rowland Gibson a.k.a. Rahlan Kay is an Iowa recording artist. Rahlan Kay methodically created a concept album about the most over-state theme in music – love & relationships. Rahlan was held up in Elastik Labs Recording Studios, which is far from a basement studio, with engineer and owner Austin Switalski. It’s where Rahlan Kay and Austin knocked out eleven tracks effortlessly in-studio. Those sessions ended up being “Relationships.”
The album is currently available on iTunes. It received positive reviews from local media outlets. This is a reflection on the sessions by those involved:
Recorded at Elastik Labs Recording Studios in Cedar Rapids
Tracks 1,4,5,7,8,9,10 produced by 500Benz
Tracks 2,3,6 produced by Josh Michalec
Track 11 produced by Austin Switalski
Guest Appearances by Phoenix the Misfit, Mike Page, Al X Ander, Damu, & Royce Bell
“Break the Chain”
Rahlan Kay: It was a concept I always wanted to do. Relationships. A universal theme that everybody can relate to. Young, old, whatever race or creed. Everyone has been in various relationships.
“Break the Chain” lyrics were driven by the hook in the song. When I listened to it, I wanted to let people know it’s a hip hop album, it is a concept, and it’s about my relationship with hip hop. Wherever hip hop allows me to go career wise or not, I love hip hop no matter what.
“U” (feat. Mike Page) Produced by Josh Michalec
Rahlan Kay: I had originally met Josh through Austin, at Elastik Labs. There’s this guy that has some nice beats. So he invited me to one of the sessions Josh was at and that’s how we met. He brought some instrumentals. I was like, “Man, we got to collab.”
Me and Mike Page had some dialogue about a record together. So Mike and his producer Big Show came to the studio to check what I was doing. We had Austin put the beat on. Show and Mike were nodding their head. Austin had that song bass-ed up like it was hott. I asked him to get on the track. We came up with the hook together wrote our verses. My verse was talking about the type of girl that I need. His verse was like, “I can’t believe I’m doing it for love. I’m a sucka for love.” It’s two different approaches.
Josh Michalec: I had four or five beat tapes online, and Rahlan picked a gang of beats from them. The ones he used were older, I make like 4-5 beats every day. I made sure to mix them before I gave them to him.
I was in the studio for one session… the one with Mike Page. I originally titled the beat “15 Minute Workout.” I was in the studio for a little bit when Mike was recording his verse and had to leave. Didn’t hear till the final version till the album came out.
“Is It True Love?” (Feat. Phoenix the Misfit) Produced by Josh Michalec
Rahlan Kay: Phoenix and me have an album out called Summer Timeless. This was a potential song that we were gonna put on that album, but it didn’t fit the concept and it wasn’t quite finished. When we finalized the song it fit the concept of this album.
Phoenix the Misfit: Me and Rahlan, when we first linked up, I had just moved back to Cedar Rapids. It was a surreal type of moment because I found out my Dad had been adopted. I had realized how much family I had here. It just so happened Rahlan Kay was my cousin. We met up and found out we both do music. I said, “We definitely gotta do an album.” That’s what sparked Hip Hop The Group.
He called me and asked if I could drop a verse for him. He told me the topic and I came down to the studio. I wrote my verse on the spot and dropped it right there. The song is about finding that one person when there’s a whole lot of girls out there. Rahlan has that old school type of vibe to him. Hip Hop The Group is just the old school with the new school.
Want’n More (feat. Royce Bell)
Rahlan Kay: I already had the hook and Royce’s voice in mind for the song. I had been trying to get Royce in the studio for some time. 500 had came to the studio to check out what I was doing. The song that came to me instantly. It flowed. I didn’t have any problems recording that. Royce gave it that new flavor. It was smooth but had energy into the track.
“Crazy Like That”
Rahlan Kay: That song was driven by the sample [Jewel’s “Foolish”] but I wanted to do a different spin. It’s talking about how love can become dangerous. So it starts out I’m pursuing a girl I think is the one. I’m gonna get her no matter what. By the second verse, I’m so into this I’m doing things I wouldn’t do. Third verse is I got out of hand, stalkerish level, I’m flipping out. By the end, it shows the aftermath: “I’m in the news/CNN/Connie Chung/with a gun…” Pure heartache.
“Let Me Go” Produced by Josh Michalec
Rahlan Kay: “Let Me Go” was one of those last tracks. It was awkward and it fit. The whole album is a story. In this part, the relationship from the previous song is over, but when you see that person again, it’s awkward. I think artists don’t capture the nuances like that. I flipped the whole rap style with the syncopation in my lyrics to capture the awkwardness.
Josh Michalec: He’s used a lot of my beats. We’ve worked together a bunch. I don’t think anything we did made it on any of his other projects. It was kinda weird, I don’t know if he still does this, but he was working on five other projects at the same time. Those three songs I produced he had done like… a year before the album came out. He doesn’t stop until one of them is perfect.
Rahlan Kay: A fun uptempo dance song. DJ’s could get people on the dance floor. It’s about when you have a relationship but you hit it off with another person chit-chating. I’m with someone but you’re still forming a bond. But it’s positive because you make that decision: we might see each other again someday, but I’m with someone right now…
“You’re My Angel” (feat Al X Ander)
Rahlan Kay: It had that commercial appeal and feel. It was a smooth track. It featured a “Charlie’s Angels” sample. How can I put something about an angel into this song to flip it? “You’re my angel. Take me and fly away.” That means I found that one. I know she’s the one. The song is about the person that without them you wouldn’t have been able to make it through.
I had performed at a gospel event at the U of I and met Al X Ander. Al X was able to make it down and “bless” the track.
Al X Ander: [Doing this record] was certainly easy. It’s more of a hobby for me, the music stuff. Rahlan hit me up asking if I could work on a project. He gave me the concepts. I was able to put some harmonies to add more color and feel to the song.
I hadn’t worked with him before. I know he had did a gospel album before, I do gospel too. I think that’s where we crossed paths. He performed at a couple of our concerts. I had a gospel group. He had been hitting me up for a while about doing some work.
“Over Losing You”
Rahlan Kay: There was a relationship that I had been in. She was murdered through domestic violence by a boyfriend. She was a real good person. Good friend. We had met and built a relationship over a period of time. It’s love lost. Everyone has lost someone in time. That’s what that song is speaking about.
“World of Mine” (Feat. Damu) Produced by Austin Switalski
Rahlan Kay: Last tracks to be recorded for the album. That song is about the most important relationship that we have: our relationship in god. Whatever you believe. Above all, your spiritual relationship is one of the most important. It’s one of the most downloaded songs off the album right now. Definitely got a cross-over appeal.