Reviewed by Kahron Spearman, Fri., July 15, 2016
Greatness lies within the grasp of Austin outfit Magna Carda. 2014's Like It Is covered the Rootsian, full live band aspect of hip-hop, production by Dougie Do leaning toward sounds that wouldn't be completely unfamiliar to the jazzy, soulful legacy of the Native Tongues/Soulquarians collectives (Common, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, and Q-Tip). That provided a synced springboard for remarkable MC work from Megz Kelli, who's equally honeycomb sweet and pit viper nasty, third full-length Cirqlation representing a quantum leap forward. Featuring Gianni Bianchini, "The Cycle," sets the scene: a downpour, faint gunfire, police sirens, and a man running. Atop a jazz trio, Kelli asks, "Does that make you feel free?" Equally disorienting, "Southern Ether" seesaws between Southern blues rock and Outkast's ATLien trap, the front femcee asserting her dominance: "Unapologetic with message, I'm your thought-slinger/ Pusherwoman, Queen Tut-kill-'em, so get your offspring up." There are latent radio-ready jams, like Kelli "shooting her shot" at a potential romantic interest on the Jonny Huggins-assisted "Impressions." Bouncy lead single "Angela Bassett" rings a low-key, passive-aggressive battle rap: "Sitting at the top like a toupee/ Who say little miss couldn't be the objet trouvé?" Minimalist "Ykwtii" (You Know What Time It Is) filters a golden era hip-hop bop through stand-up bass and snap. Kelli brag-raps: "I'm '92 wearing my 1995s/ I don't see competition, like I need eyes/ They say, 'You too small to be so vicious'/ I be like, 'Bitch, you think I don't know I need size.'" She comes full circle on the title track, the whole of Cirqlation a concise and mature affair clocking in at under 40 minutes. Recalling Digable Planets and Nineties Organized Noize productions – fused and thrust forward – Magna Carda's pathway to stardom is quickly going from concrete to gold.