As Downtown Kayoto, Chiko Chinyadza offers a listening experience akin to an all-you-can-eat buffet with a time limit: You are having it all and you are having it all right now. Fuzzy guitars, sadboi rap, and twinkling 2-step pile high. Some of it is really rather nice, much of it is familiar, and the odd tang is utterly new and remarkable. A good amount will be left on the plate, but the unguarded, have-a-go attitude is all part of the appeal. Previous outings—the Tyler-imitating Pinkboy in 2019, and 2021’s NAVIG8, which embraced guitars and a more forthright pop stance—tried on different looks without fully committing. Influences were proudly advertised, to the point of imitation. Kayoto’s latest EP, Learning in public, is more assured, and sparks with brilliant charm.

It helps that Kayoto, born in Zimbabwe and now based in Hull, is both a nimble rapper and proficient singer. He cycles styles and shifts between registers with ease, channeling a one-man boy band, though it’s his rapping—often delivered in a half-rasp—that’s most urgent and impressive. He can handle choruses from the softer verges of Britpop (“Run from you”) just as convincingly as a double-time verse switch (see “Lite,” which packs more ideas than the average mixtape). Occasionally, he leans a little heavily on his favored touchpoints—Drake, Kendrick, Frank—and slides away from the capacity to surprise. Indeed he’s best, like on slick, bouncy opener “Lite,” when not displaying his influences so proudly. Still, if “In2you” is Drake shortly after discovering archive footage of tastemaking ’90s rave Twice as Nice, or attending a millennial Brit’s wedding where garage-pop totems like “Flowers” and “Sweet Like Chocolate” are belted to the rafters, then it’s also a whole lot of fun—and brightly executed to boot.

More than anything, Kayoto is honest in his approach, and transparent to an almost compulsive degree. On “Run from you” he raps silkily over lounge guitars about flights to California, before admitting, in a barely audible ad-lib, “I’ve never been to the U.S.” We know, because he broadcasts the fact, that this music and the captivating accompanying videos were put together between studying for a medical biochemistry degree and working at a supermarket. He projects ambition, without losing sight of the appeal of what’s real. He embraces Hull’s reputation for, well, not having much of a reputation (an unkind joke describes the place as “one letter from hell”). Kayoto’s done with stacking shelves now, and left the childhood dream of being a doctor back in the lecture halls, but he’s not about to pretend that those things, or his hometown, haven’t shaped him and his quest for pop recognition.

All this transfers via his naked lyrics. “Poison”—where he employs the age-old trick of pairing depressive, sludgy lines with a peppy beat, singing “I felt like poison, the way I spread so slow” over baile funk rim shots—is his take on a breakup song, and potent in its blend of bluntness and subtlety. It’s small-town, post-teen living in all its contradiction and imperfection, and Kayoto’s ability to pinpoint and illustrate these moments—of young love, figuring things out, grasping for a sense of self—with precision, but not pretension, makes him a compelling prospect.