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The Cal Times student news is a publication of the Student Association Inc. at California University of Pennsylvania

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The Cal Times student news is a publication of the Student Association Inc. at California University of Pennsylvania

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Album of the Week: Let’s Get In Our Bag with Khamari

Welcome to the return of the CalTimes’s Album of the Week series! We’ll be reviewing our favorite albums and artists old and new, across all genres. If you have any suggestions, please email us!
Sarah Seader
CalTimes Album of the Week

This week’s album: A debut R&B album from rising star Khamari.

Khamari is a name that you’re bound to hear more of in the coming years. Though he’s been releasing music since 2020, his first full debut album just dropped this year. His rise can only be categorized as meteoric, and he is widely regarded as one of the “Next Up” in the R&B world, next to other rising stars like Jordan Ward, Omar Apollo, and Lucky Daye. Fans of experimental soul, methodical rhythms, and modern hip-hop infused blues will find a happy home in Khamari’s music, ranging from his initial EP, El Dorado in 2020, to his newest creation, A Brief Nirvana. A project that, by all accounts, has had a generous reception, and has even booked Khamari’s spot on the main ticket of the music world. With his recent appearance on the coveted COLORS SHOW series, the artist gave a stripped-down version of his song “These Four Walls”, exposing his sound to the wider world.

The album, though, is certain to trailblaze his success going forward. If you’re alone in your room at night, light a candle and step into the shoes of Khamari.

The 11-song, 30-minute journey is one of melancholy melodies and immense thoughtfulness, with the occasional higher-energy track infused into the mix. These tracks weave tales of relationships gone wrong, existential dread, the desperation of making amends, and self-degradation. In 30 short minutes, Khamari has fully confronted himself. The more radio-friendly tracks might initially seem misplaced, but on subsequent listens, the listener gets a sense of the chaotic organization of the album itself. There is a blues-style method to the madness with Khamari’s music; a single, traceable theme in the cacophony. Spreading your wings and trying new things with your music is always encouraged, yet almost never appreciated in the moment. Somehow, Khamari manages to strike a balance. He sings as if the audience will never be there, as if he’s singing to a wall that will never criticize him. And there’s a certain vulnerability that the audience feels when listening to this. It’s shockingly genuine, and hides absolutely nothing.

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The album opens with a high-hat heavy track with Khamari immediately spilling his soul about how the album that the listener is about to hear isn’t wide enough to express how he’s feeling. Truly, 16 bars are never enough to capture an artist’s soul. There’s a panging sense, right off the bat, that Khamari has much more to say about his mental state and how difficult and vulnerable writing lyrics can be. Wax Poetic feels as if we were listening to an artist’s inner mind, that we were trespassing on their thoughts. This overwhelming sense of vulnerability returns multiple times throughout the album, such as in the next track, my personal favorite of the project, Doctor, My Eyes.

Doctor, My Eyes is slowly becoming Khamari’s most popular song, and one listen is enough to see why. Though a consistently replayed song on my personal playlist, the song imposes itself onto anyone within the first chord. This song is an unavoidable wrecking ball in the heart of any Gen Z listener, and should slowly but surely become an unofficial anthem for the troubles of the generation. Influenced by the Jackson Browne song of the same name, Doctor, My Eyes expresses Khamari’s worst, most emotionally painful moments through simplicity. Khamari finds inner struggle in his assumption that the present moment: his rise to fame, his creative freedom, and his music-making, are supposed to be the peak of his life. Yet, he wishes to feel nothing at all.

This track is sure to bring a relatable edge to any situation that young people today find themselves in, placing it among the highlights of the album. This song, along with These Four Walls, A Sacred Place, and Requiem, make up the core strength of the album in my opinion.

The only other song that makes a splash before the interlude is A Sacred Place. Khamari’s high, reaching vocals on the chorus express a pain that R&B fans will get goosebumps over. The simple question of “Where were you last night?” holds a nearly infinite amount of weight when put in the context of a struggling relationship, filled with resentment, anger, and regret. Some critics may say that the chorus is repetitive, which I can empathize with. But I would argue that’s the point. The weight of the relationship is culminating into an unanswerable question, one that Khamari keeps asking, knowing that the answer will never come.

The project closes out with four final tracks that could stand along as their own EP. Khamari certainly saves some of his best for the finale, with Right My Wrongs, These Four Walls, On My Way, and Requiem. Each sonically distinct, but each track brimming with Khamari’s signature emotionally brooding vocal style. Requiem, especially, seems to be going under the radar as an unexpected high-marching soul hit. Ending the album with this song was the perfect choice, and seems to be the only ending that makes sense. If you rated this album as good before, these four songs will undoubtedly raise that rating.

Khamari’s ability to deliver a consistent project in today’s age of streaming will be his strength moving forward. His first full album was a test run to see if his sound could translate to a larger project, and it did so with flying colors. The method to the madness approach that he takes with his music is sure to mesh well with modern audiences, and his emotional, soulful delivery is so good that listeners can’t help but be enthralled: they have no choice. R&B tends to have that inevitable effect on people, and Khamari is nailing it so far.

Rating: 8/10

Main Attractors: Sound is subdued and reserved, setting the stage for Khamari’s soon-to-be signature vocals. Lyrically, the album is proof that Khamari is just as much of a writer as he is a performer. Squeezing a mental state into a 30-minute project is very hard to do, and he pulled it off. R&B mainstays and newcomers alike will find a timeless feeling throughout the record, with things that all generations can relate to. Khamari’s draw, though, will be Gen Z, as he seems to speak for us more than we’d like to admit. Khamari’s rise to fame is proof that R&B/Soul will never fade as a genre, only adapt to the times.

Main Detractors: Four of the songs on the album were previously released, which left some fans disappointed for an album that’s only eleven songs long. Looking forward, I’m expecting longer projects from Khamari with even more experimentation. The album itself doesn’t necessarily follow a storyline, and the themes can be muddled in certain isolated parts.

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About the Contributors
Andrew Havens, News/Reviews Editor
Andrew Havens is a staff writer for the CalTimes and a Junior Communications Studies major with a minor in Marketing. Being from right across the river in Brownsville, PA, Andrew knows and loves the local community, trying his hardest to show off the amazing people in his hometown as well as his university. Andrew is just starting to pick up real-world writing and marketing experience, interning for both and Heartland Fabrication over the summer, as a staff writer and marketing intern respectively. The research gathering process is his favorite part of the job, because: "if you've researched correctly, the story just falls together!" You can find Andrew all over campus: attending meetings with the Graphic Design Club, writing away furiously on his laptop, working up a sweat at the gym, or simply getting his favorite sushi from Umami. He is entering his second year writing for the CalTimes.
Sarah Seader, Editor-in-Chief

Sarah Seader is the Editor-in-Chief and a Staff Writer for the CalTimes and a Senior Honors Student at PennWest California, pursuing two degrees in Business Administration Management and Management Information Systems with a Certificate in Innovation and Entrepreneurship as well as a Data Science Certificate. Sarah serves as the PennWest California Student Trustee.

Sarah is involved serving as the President of the SAI Board of Directors, President of DECA, President of Alpha Lambda Delta (ALD), Student Government Executive Board serving as Vice President, Vice President of Finance Club, Accounting Club Treasurer, and serves as the Treasurer on the Student Honors Advisory Board (SHAB).

Sarah is also a member of Women United, CUTV, WCAL, New Life, STAND, American Sign Language (ASL) Club, American Marketing Association (AMA), Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), Student Activities Board (SAB), Vulcan Gaming Club, President's Leadership Academy (PLA), The National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS), and serves as a Peer Mentor and Honors Coach.

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