Artist : Vinny Blessed
Album : Music Train
Label: Never Quit Entertainment/Select-O-Hits
Rating: 6 / 10
To this day, hip-hop €™s Latin branch remains sadly underdeveloped. You have artists who are without a question proud Latinos and receive plenty of support from their community, but when it comes to the music itself, it rarely goes beyond a dash of percussion here and a €œmamacita € there. The arrival of reggaeton, an engaging mixture of dancehall reggae and a variety of Latin styles, has forced hip-hop to admit a little bit more Latin influence and encourages Latin rappers to show allegiance to their heritage.
Take Vinny Blessed, a Bronx native and Brooklyn resident of Panamanian descent. If asked, he €™d probably attribute the fact that he €™s able to make his debut to his own will power. After all, that €™s what he seems to suggest on €˜Never Quit €™ when he rhymes, €œRecord execs was tryin €™ to ignore / so I bought C4 €™s and blew off they door / they realized I couldn €™t be denied anymore. € But with a strong reggaeton leaning to his debut album €˜Music Train, €™it is evident that Blessed has managed to catch a wave that could potentially carry him to greater heights than a traditional indie hip-hop album.
Thankfully, he doesn €™t deny the hip-hop background that shaped him back in the day when he listened to the likes of LL Cool J and Kool G Rap and as a shorty held his own in battles in the Bronx. With his combination of €œhip-hop con reggaeton € and bilingual rhymes, Vinny Blessed is less likely to be pigeonholed than a typical representative of either genre. And it surely helps if you, the listener, are not too conservative either. Just like it would probably help if I, the reviewer, understood some Spanish. Likewise, what holds true for Blessed €™s stomping grounds, applies to my attempt to review his album: €œGod forbid you ain €™t know a little Spanish / My dog, you will get schemed on in Spanish. € €œEspaÃ±ol gave me an advantage, € the New Yorker looks back on his childhood days, and with the angle he €™s working, it should come as an advantage as well in the present time.
€˜Music Train €™ opens with a string of hot reggaeton tracks, the least scorching of which is the album €™s title track and opener. €˜Fuego (Fire), €™ €˜Diablita, €™ €˜La Loca €™ and €˜Cuerpo, €™ which follow back to back, all use driving reggaeton rhythms and Spanglish lyrics. Vinny, while not the most technically impressive rapper, rides the beats comfortably, coming across like an uptempo version of the Big Tymers, adding an explosive element in the form of shouted hooks. It €™s a formula, but one that works, and with the beat always being body-movin €™ to a certain extent, there €™s not much required from the listener except to follow the MC €™s many commands that seek your involvement, be it physical ( €œEverybody dirty-dance to this / get real close, I wanna see sandwiches”) or vocal ( €œNot Funkmaster Flex but I do drop bombs / when the hook come all you gotta do is sing along €).
This is the part where €˜Music Train €™ starts to resemble the typical one-hit wonder full-length, where one hit song is rehashed ad nauseum, a suspicion seemingly confirmed by €˜La Loca, €™ when Vinny quips that he €œcame up with a hot song, it €™s time to cash in. € Thankfully, he begins to opt for variety by track 6. On €˜La Calle, €™ the autobiographical content inspires lyrically more intricate patterns. €˜Hey Yo, €™ supported by a Scott Storch-ish beat with multiple keyboard lines, is Vinny Blessed €™s pat on his own shoulder. Producer James €šUncle Sam €™ Michaux deserves some of those as well, especially for the bass-heavy €˜Cuerpo, €™ the darker and harder €˜Callejeros €™ and the powerful €˜Never Quit, €™ which sees Vin proclaim: €œRap €™s the only game that €™s colder than hockey / I €™ll probably wind up in the penalty box seats / for throwin €™ bows at a hater tryin €™ to stop me / I €™m so nice, I deserve to be cocky. €
As so every often, you €™ll feel that something €™s missing when you listen to €˜Music Train. €™ On the other hand, there is always something missing. The complete rap album does simply not exist. What all artists should try to achieve, though, is to excel at what they €™re good at, and to try a few things that are not within their immediate comfort zone. Vinny Blessed pulls off that balancing act. On the surface, he employs strictly stereotypical musical and lyrical means, but he observes the fine line between exploiting a trend for all it €™s worth and sticking to the script. He certainly doesn €™t strive to be the toughest or the nastiest member of the rap pack. As he says somewhere: €œI don €™t even wanna be the top boss / I just wanna drive down Tomkins in a drop-top Porsche. € Similarly, the requisite €œcrack track € (his wording) €˜There Was a Time When €™ lacks the boastful ignorance of today €™s trendiest dope-slingin €™ anthems. However, straying from formulas isn €™t always prone to work, as evidenced by €˜She €™s Not Ready, €™ where the crude instrumentation and unusually thoughtful approach result in a song that lacks conviction and compassion.
For the most part, however, Vinny Blessed knows what he wants. Sweet-talking the ladies on the dancefloor is probably the right move, whether he €™s just looking to score or whether he wants to sell records. The occasional highlight in sexual innuendo ( €œLet me know when you €™re wet, so I can take a dive €) aside, he doesn €™t have an awful lot to offer in terms of wit or wisdom. But clever club tracks are a rarity and it would be foolish to expect Vinny Blessed to deviate from a universally accepted formula. With his consequent incorporation of Spanish and reggaeton, he €™s already ahead of a great number of competitors.