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Album Review: Kids At Play by C. Valenta

Across every track, Valenta reminds us that we are all just kids – but some kids’ play time is very different from others.

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By Mitchell Tousley

C. Valenta was raised by a single mother of 6 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The adversity he faced left him with two options: follow those before him, or deviate despite the risk that carries. His question wasn’t where to start, but how to establish himself while lacking direction. During his childhood, his mother would play music in a van that often served as their home. Unknowingly at that time, music would play a pivotal role in the years to come. In 2015, Cornelius obtained his GED before enrolling at Salt Lake Community College. In November of 2018, music’s impact would allow him to become C. Valenta: creating a mouthpiece for silenced adversities.

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Kids At Play is a concise listen, but Valenta doesn’t waste a second of it. The beat choices give something for every kind of hip-hop fan. Old soul samples will leave the old heads knocking to 808’s. The instrumentals seamlessly bring together old and new styles of beatmaking. Valenta’s flow is as free and uninhibited by today’s trends as it is technical and captivating, reminding the listener of rappers like Earl Sweatshirt and Benny the Butcher. The lyrics of Kids At Play are where Valenta shines the most, however. From the opening lines of “Tag,” Valenta makes it very clear that he isn’t here to play games, and you’re here to listen. Valenta never preaches or condescends, but he highlights the terrors and triumphs of growing up as a poor, black child in America. 

C. Valenta. Photo by @pure.nation.visualz
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The track list is stacked with great tracks, but my favorites are “Cops & Robbers” and “Hide & Seek.” On the former, Valenta sounds powerful and unrestrained by his past pains and doesn’t sound discouraged by his current trials. In a stroke of genius, he combines both the hardships of his past and present saying “Playing cops and robbers – tell me why I never win.” On “Hide & Seek,” Valenta is his most vulnerable and poignant. Highlighting the abuse and neglect he experienced as a child, Valenta heartbreakingly likens playing the game hide and seek to sheltering himself from abusive parents. Across every track (but these ones in particular), Valenta reminds us that we are all just kids trying to play – but some kids’ play time is very different from others’. 

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On this debut EP, C. Valenta demonstrates a kind of maturity that is seldom found on a first release from artists writing in any genre. His bars are focused, intimate, and intelligent. He has found a voice that normally takes years of writing and recording to develop. My only hope for the next C. Valenta project is that he continues to develop the strong ideas on Kids At Play, perhaps in some longer songs. I’d also be interested in seeing Valenta try rapping on top of some different beat styles, as I think his fluid and commanding flow has a chameleon-like quality that has the potential to sound natural on a wide variety of beats. 

In conclusion, Kids At Play is an excellent debut EP from an artist showing more potential and promise than most established rappers in many parts of the mainstream. The project may be short, but its brevity leaves me only wanting more. Make sure to follow C. Valenta on Instagram. You can listen to “Cops & Robbers” below!

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