During the weeks leading up to the release of Don't Die, Hannibal King seemed to epitomize the idea of a troubled artist in the midst of intense personal growth. He was not the stereotypical depressed vagabond minstrel, hoping to illicit a response through his pain or creative melancholy; rather, he returned from the desolate place of doubt and low self-esteem, to remind listeners that life can get better and you must never waver in your belief that you can make it. This notion is one of the reasons why "Don't Die," the title track, and "Wedding Cake" are so powerful—there is a yearning to move past small roadblocks and a message of perseverance.
Don't Die is finally here in full, and if feels like an album that Hannibal really needed to release. The twelve track project delves into various aspects that consume the lives and minds of maturing creatives: love ("Wedding Cake"), indifference ("iungiveafuck"), growth ("Journey"), and death ("R.I.P."). Unlike his previous LP, Floral Print, Don't Die is not a collection of loose tracks that sound good, with features from some of Hannibal's friends, but rather a fully fleshed out theme and intimate.
Hannibal continues to shine brightest as a producer, which helps make Don't Die a truly enjoyable experience. "Pull Up" is one of the best songs on the album, thanks to the unpredictable production and beautiful organ playing, reminiscent of lobby or elevator music. The keys are not necessarily grand sounding, but feel comfortable and ready to break at any given moment. Hannibal shows a different side of his talent on "iungiveafuck," with its fast paced rhythm and "tear the club up" attitude. "Larry Sanders" is another unorthodox beat, but once again works out really well. Thelonious Martin, Swelly, SuprChnk, and Big Jerm all provide production as well, which gives the tape a nice varied sound.
Although Hannibal's production is his primary skill, his rhyming has developed since his last release. He goes toe-to-toe with World's Fair's Nasty Nigel on "Wedding Cake," happily commits manslaughter on "Intro (Unapologetic)", and enthusiastically shares the gospel of determination on "Don't Die." During the entire thirty four minute project, corny lines and sorry rhymes only appear in small number, typically before a spectacular line .It should be noted that this guy Bub Styles, who raps alongside Hannibal on "iungiveafuck" and "Man's World" delivers two solid verses; his voice has a raspy tenor to it that compliments Hannibal so well and he brought a ton of energy every time he touched the microphone.
Overall Don't Die is a solid outing and fans of New York hip-hop should not miss out. Hannibal is growing and getting better as a musician, and this feels like the beginning of something special. Definitely check it out below.