KC Ortiz is truly an anomaly. At this point, two mixtapes deep, it would be a major understatement to say that she is worthy of blowing up. Since she made her full-length debut last year with “Beach Street”, the conversation on her success level really ends with when, not how, she will breakthrough to the mainstream appeal. On her new “Church Tapes” mixtape, she begins to reveal information regarding her religious background and upbringing, while continuing to own her identity as a powerful figure in the trans-community. Two topics that are typically controversially contradictory fuse together to become one inspirational underlying theme; this is KC Ortiz at her best, and she has shown no sign of stopping anytime soon.
While drawing obvious inspiration from a handful of very famous New York MCs such as Lil’ Kim & Notorious B.I.G, KC maintains to bring a flavor of originality to every bar she spits. One of the main factors that continues to compliment Ortiz’ delivery as a flow that truly belongs to her is the ever-slapping beat selection heard across her entire catalog. It’s refreshing to hear someone so lyrically capable finesse their talent over beats that can be approached an endless number of ways. While her message echoes positivity and optimism throughout every track on “Church Tapes”, she always steps to each verse with a fierce vocal pattern, once again contributing to the overall success of this project. It is rare to hear an album with no filler tracks these days, and although it only clocks in at around 25 mins, “Church Tapes” functions as a project that leaves very little room for skipping even a portion of one of its’ seven main tracks.
Even after cementing her presence in music as a one-of-a-kind innovator, Ortiz has continued to push boundaries on this record. While “Beach Street” stands out as a versatile, staple 2016 party mixtape, it does lack the underlying themes that are frequently touched upon throughout the beginning of “Church Tapes”. The religious content that blatantly drives the first few songs isn’t necessarily the first time KC has shown her audience a religious side. At various points on “Beach Street”, we are given the notion that Ortiz has always been religious. Through “Church Tapes”, Ortiz continues to reveal personal information on her morals and values. We learn how her identity has coincided with her religious beliefs, and how the two polar opposites are actually not so different and have worked together in creating the person who is KC Ortiz. Although she is more outwardly religious on this record, her beliefs are always smart, open-minded and self-reflective, and never pushed down the listeners throat.
In terms of lyrical context, Ortiz is far more topically versatile on her latest project than on “Beach Street”. Throughout the course of the second track, “Know It”, Ortiz wrestles with her materialistic desires, homophobia and religion all at the same time. On paper, this seems like a recipe for disaster, but KC manages to turn any notion of negativity into a message of hope, vocally overcoming life’s obstacles across this record. Pushing the idea of overcoming even further, on tracks like “Future”, she repetitively serves up the mantra of “We are the future”, creating an aura of optimistically inevitable acceptance for every identity down the line.
On the final two tracks of the project, “Best Friends Sweater” & “Bitch Pudding”, Ortiz embraces her wild side, rapping as raw and uncut as ever about sex—pairing either of the tracks perfectly with almost any party. The aforementioned combination of more modern beats with her signature approach to said beats works wonders on these two tracks. For example, by rapping malicious sixteens over a beat that is driven by a high pitched vocal command on “Bitch Pudding”, she actually takes full control of the track.
At times, the beats she has chosen for this particular tape work well as standalone club tracks, potentially landing even without her raps on them. The fact that she takes the attention away from any instrumental she raps on and places it back on herself speaks volumes about her ability as a rapper, and even more so about her dominating persona as an artist. At the end of the day, she has truly embodied the classic idea of an ‘MC’—whether those letters translate into KC ‘moving the crowd’ or flaunting her unique creativity as a ‘microphone controller’.