REVIEW: Low – the FREEDOM album

the FREEDOM album

Artist: Low

Album: the FREEDOM album

Label: MayBe Entertainment

Score: 5 / 10

Reviewer: mattmatical

You gotta give it to Low. The title of “the FREEDOM album” and the accompanying mission statement €˜Whether it is rhyming, humming, spoken word, whatever, I just wanted to free myself thru my music €™ are not just empty words. Creatively, Low is taking an awful lot of liberties.

For a substantial part of its duration, this CD manages to put a variety of vocal tracks on a collision course by allowing adlibs to be scattered all over the place. ‘Do This Anymore €™ is one of the vocally most irritating rap songs I €™ve ever encountered, from the murmured, mumbled chorus to the arbitrary conversation overlayering the verses. The layering of voices is an approach simply too complicated for a project whose verses were very likely recorded in one take and which bears the unmistakable marks of a low budget production. The fragile balance between beat and raps is hard enough to achieve, and randomly inserted extra elements on either side usually endanger a successful match-up. For anything layered in hip-hop, you either need to invest enough time or into the right personel and equipment. On the indie tip, only a selected few such as Edan, Madlib or Count Bass D have managed to pull it off, and these are people who enjoy an almost symbiotic relationship with their music.

All of this is probably not quite relevant to Low, in his noble quest to express himself. Residing in the Atlanta metro but reppin €™ his homestate South Carolina to the fullest, Low makes hip-hop free of stereotypes, but to his own detriment also free of guidelines. Blessed with a gruff yet gentle voice reminiscent of the Goodie Mob €™s Khujo, he raps in a stream-of-consciousness flow, touching on everything from the material to the metaphysical. The songs have hooks, they have moods, but one can rarely ever pinpoint what exactly they €™re about.

Obviously, we should be supportive of someone who reminds his peers to But criticism of others and claims of superiority need to be substantiated by a clear and concise argumentation, anything else is likely to backfire. On €˜Skills, €™ the Buddhist-type humming supports his claim to street scholar status, and the flow he exhibits is interesting and unusual, but in this vocal rubble you gotta virtually mine for diamonds. Not in vain, but with some pain: “Too many niggas that rhyme because school’s tough / too many talk about crime but fear handcuffs / cats forever teachin’ ’bout the grind / but never read up.”

Few are the moments when Low has your undivided attention. Among them his indictment of the ruling rap class, climaxing in the effective “You paid the ultimate toll €“ lost your soul / just to ship gold, get head from bimbos / Played out Timbos / You muthafuckas just so SIMPLE!” Another interesting segment can be found on €˜Southbound, €™ where Low remembers a bit of “advice from my pop, who €™s a goner”: “Son, the world is yours if you really wanna / but that €™s a big bitch to keep in your corner / she turns her back on her axis every mornin €™.”

Something is different about Low. Problem is, not too many will have the patience to stick around to find out what. And those who do, might just discover that Low may be different, but is unable to put his uniqueness into words. According to him, the appreciation of his artistry is simply a question of time and intellectual capacity (“It €™ll take a while for this shit to digest / too complex for you dummies”), but honestly, the main reason I find it hard to embrace “the FREEDOM album” is that I €™m not willing to invest my resources into an album that indicates that the artist didn €™t invest too much either.

Low has one thing going for him, and that €™s his willingness to try on different deliveries. He also likes to sing and hum, and he always does it with melodical determination. Not that he €™s much of a singer, but to him it €™s clearly more than a gimmick to get listeners emotionally attached to what he’s saying. As a listener, you’re torn between wanting to congratulate Low for the soulful, melodic quality of his vocals, and wanting to scold him for the generally lethargic manner in which he performs his raps. It’s quite a feat that a great deal of his songs are cheerful nevertheless.

In the end, “the FREEDOM album” is one of those rap albums that bear the possibility of featuring one single stellar track that reveals the artist €™s full potential. Unfortunately, I €™ve waited in vain for any such highlight. The disposition is there, especially on the side of producer Dez, who covers a broad range, expertly inserting everything from funky guitar licks to gospel-tinged breaks, showing himself to be a potential commercial contender with the heavy ‘South Cackas’, as well as a disciple of OutKast with the fast-paced ‘South Cat From South Cack’. “You would if you could but the label keeps your moves restricted,” Low taunts signed artists. But ultimately the joke might be on him because sadly nobody seemed to stick around to put the necessary finishing touches on “the FREEDOM album.”

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