Back in March of 2018, Kansas City artist Kadesh Flow released an EP called Room Service. Recorded in his hotel room at MAGFEST with a few close collaborators, the EP exuded an excitement and urgency from an artist who had recently quit their day job and was ready to take their music to the next level. Going into 2020, Kadesh Flow was ready to return to this format, with plenty of conventions and festivals on the calendar. Then the world went to shit and live music went out the window, so the plan was scrapped. Like any good artist would do, Kadesh pivoted and started writing and recording his way through the pandemic in his basement studio. The end result is now here in the form of a full-length album, Room Service 2.

While Room Service was all about the excitement of starting a new phase of one’s career and working in an exciting creative scenario, Room Service 2 is about the malaise of being stuck in one’s house and head during a pandemic. The resulting music is a mix of midtempo trap, R&B, and boom bap beats that he and Atlas cooked up, mostly set in minor keys to reflect these feelings of melancholy and frustration over the course of thirteen tracks. As you work your way through the album, Kadesh is singing and rapping in his low raspy voice and playing some mellow tones on his trombone as he opens up and delivers some of his most vulnerable music to date. At times it can be a little uncomfortable, but only because Kadesh isn’t afraid to paint himself as the bad guy at times and be honest about his struggles to deal with the frustrations of his career and his personal life. He manages to work in a few video game and anime references that give a little bit of lightness to the album, but this project is really about these raw, emotional moments. Case in point, one of the standout songs on Room Service 2 is “I Smile,” a song about how Kadesh Flow has had to learn how to navigate life as a young Black man in a racist country. In it, he relates how on the same day he learned he was going to college on a full scholarship, he got pulled over and hassled by a cop because he “fit the description.” He takes this frustration to the chorus where he discusses how he’s learned to smile to disarm people when he meets them as a coping mechanism to figure out where he actually stand with the white people that he meets every day.

Room Service 2 might not be a “fun” album, but it is a thoughtful and mature album from Kadesh Flow. So no, this isn’t the one to throw on at parties, but it is a nice album to put on and listen to on your headphones, or maybe in the car when you’re going on a long drive by yourself and you want to get in your own head for a minute. Life isn’t always great, and we need some heartfelt music to reflect that sometimes. Kadesh Flow has done just that with this album.