Album: Underground Famous
Label: Vigilant Productions
Rating: 3.5 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
In the eternal battle between good and evil, commerical and underground, dope and wack it takes something special to make an artist stand out from the pack. Sometimes its a stunning background story of rags to riches ghetto poverty to Big Willie-styled pimpdom (Hi 50). Sometimes its the quality of the beats or rhymes. (Hi Showbiz and AG). Sometimes its a simple gimmick or attribute that the artist in question uses to get on before milking it to death and imploding into shards of ‘I’m-still-relevant-please-buy-my-album’ (Hi Hammer). Whatever the angle, I think we can all safely agree that those who remain ‘on the scene’ definitely possess something that those who sank without trace sadly lacked.
So what’s Fluent’s story?
The interesting background is probably a non-starter. From New Jersey via Maryland and Tennessee, Fluent seems like your average Hiphop head – there’s no getting shot 9 times, or being born of a black panther here…
The gimmick thing? Nah, Marshall has the white emcee thing on lock I’m afraid.
And so, its gonna come down to the beats and the rhymes – the quality of which will either separate Fluent from the pack, or ensure he’s just another face in the Open-Mic-Night crowd.
On first showings though, the omens aren’t great – boardwork is handled entirely by 4 Eva Blesst, the in-house head of production, and to be honest – its mind numblingly repetitive. Thirteen of the fifteen tracks feature the EXACT same drum program, which results in a gang of songs that mesh into one big overlong glob of boredom. I have no idea how Fluent and co expected to try to sneak this one past the public – there’s barely a switch in the drum patterns, and they’re all using the same snare. Couple this with the fact that there’s not a lot going on musically (Blesst seems to have followed the sparse=real Hiphop rule), and straight away its clear that this release is in trouble.
Lyrically, Fluent is adequate. His flow is on-point, he rides the beats fairly well (if a little breathlessly at times), and he sounds confident and competent, but vocally and lyrically there are several underground emcees who do this type of thing much better. Edan and BENEFIT sound extremely similar to Fluent, and both have released albums that push “Underground Famous” into the shade.
If you can look beyond the repetitive nature of the album as a whole, and examine a few of the tracks individually, then you’ll see that there IS a pocket of potential that could perhaps be mined more successfully by a variety of different producers with different sounds, rather than one cat with one drum loop. ‘Life Scratched Up’ for example features Fluent dipping into his own suicidal thoughts and explaining to the listener how everyday struggles can become insurmountable obstacles to those in a depressive state. Even here though, where the lyrics convey a strong message it seems that Fluent is cursed by poor production decisions – this time a horribly scratched chorus mars some quality lyrics. This seems to be the pattern throughout – the tracks which shine for their lyricism are usually the ones with the irritating hooks, or the distracting noises flying in and out of the mix.
Its really hard to recommend this. There’s not enough quality here to justify a purchase, especially in an industry which is becoming increasingly swamped by sub-par releases. The one saving grace, Fluent himself, is consistently drowned out by the horrible production, resulting in the listener eventually tuning out the lyrics as well as the beats. Result – nobody wins. Back to the drawing board with this one…