Rhyme Brawn And Reason
|By Amir Said (Sa’id)|
BeatTips Rating: 3/5
Nico The Beast’s album, The Beast Within, opens with a question: “Are you a talker or a doer?” Fortunately for fans of non-watered down hip hop/rap music, Nico’s an aggressive “doer.” In fact, the entire offering plays out like the journal of a hard-nose man who’s lived it, and more poignantly, lived thru it.
On the track, “You Mean Everything” (beat by Rhythm J), an incredibly emotional and painful track, Nico uses a hushed delivery (something that works here, but shouldn’t be repeated) to drop a wrenching recounting of the loss of his infant song. And Nico’s vocals are made whole by Rhythm J’s haunting instrumental, which taps the essence of the doo wop era, with searing touch and mastery. This song embodies musical artistry, and presents Nico in its finest moment. It also gives notice that the rest of the album is worthy of a close listen.
Despite the softer vocalizing of “You Mean Everything,” you can’t be fooled by Nico’s hush-tone side. To be certain, his default flow and vocal hue is harsh and appropriately aggressive. Indeed, the track “Never Stop” f/ N.I.Z. (beat by Kornswagger) bears this out rather matter-factly: “I was a numbskull/hated all my fuckin’ life/fuck a mic/This is war, pussy, gun ho.” And on “Grown Man” f/ 2ew Gun Ciz & Streetz Da Gooch (beat by Rhythm J), Nico’s harshness is tempered a bit, but the aggressiveness is certainly still there. And Ciz and Streetz more than represent on this absolute heatrock, proving that Nico’s also adept at picking his rhyme partners.
BeatTips Music Review Breakdown
8. “Grown Man Music” f/ 2ew Gun Ciz & Streetz Da Gooch (beat by Rhythm J)
This joint is full of soul—literally. It shuffles with a delicate smoothness that is offset by an anchoring drum framework that helps stab the beat into your better senses. What about the vocals? Here, Nico rolls up and down with the scheme of the beat, in an effortless flow that meshes in one of the best rhyme and beat marriages I’ve ever heard. And again Nico is joined by Ciz & Streetz, who this time black out over the beat, just as much as Nico; each interprets a path that compliments the sketch of the beat. Finally, the soulful sung hook—”Going in circles trying…—” really puts this song over the top. These days, sung hooks are often contrived, nasal, and forced. None of that appears here on “Grown Man Music.” The singing is determined and undoctored, steady and natural. A certain compliment to a stellar song.
15. “Make Believe” (beat by Vanderslice)
Dope! Nico is right at home on the more straight-away, emo-free beats. This joint solidifies the fact that solid rhythms are Nico’s best chance for musical glory. Beat personified by a Piano and drowning sax sample, backed up by a drum framework that features a hard hitting kick, a succinct snare, and effective 1/4 hi-hat pattern.
The High Points:
3. “Number One Single” f/ 2ew Gunn Ciz & Toke Jones (beat by Kornswagger)
This is clearly the *lead single* joint off of The Beast Within. Song features a “feel good,” ready and steady instrumental that matches up well with Nico’s smoothed out flow. Throw in respectable rhymework by 2ew Gunn Ciz & Toke Jones, plus a sung (but not annoying) hook, and what you have is a solid single with mass (and critical) appeal.
12. “Golden” f/ Vixon (beat by Stupid Genius)
One of the highest points on the album. Utilizes the synthetic-sounds based style and is personified by its boom bap drum structure. Nico sounds natural; he’s clearly right at home with the more “direct,” straight forward beat arrangements.
16. “Last Ride” f/ Ashley Howard (beat by Distant Starr, Steve Leevy, and Noochman)
Story rhyme that details the loss of a close friend to a fatal car crash. Beat is dope: bouncing kick, syncopated tambourine, and an understated clap. Synthetic-sounds based arrangement that’s warm and well thought-out.
The Low Points:
6. “The Beast’s Symphony” (beat by Samik)
This song features an “emo” style beat that’s very overbearing. There’s simply too much going on with the beat; so much so, it made it hard for me to decide what to listen to, the beat or the rhyme. Great songs never force you to make that choice, or even ask the question in the first place.
9. “What Do They Want” (beat by Samik)
Song sounds like an attempt at club/pop radio play. I’m sure beatmaker (producer) Samik’s future is bright, particularly if he’s aiming for R&B or the more *urban pop* centric type hip hop/rap, but his ambitious (over produced) tracks seem to neither inspire Nico, nor match his naturally intimate, but aggressive, rhyme style.
11. “Appear To Be” f/ P. Shaw (beat by Kels of TN2 Productions)
Another “emo” song… This joint was difficult to listen to. The beat seems to want to be several different styles all at once. There’s the Southern bounce in full effect: heavy syncopated kick and hi-hat and the proverbial clap. But then there’s this strong dose of synth ambiance. The drumwork I can handle, but the ambient arrangement was too much to bare, kept me thinking of the inside of an insane asylum, or a transitional scene in the teen vampire drama, Twilight. This song just doesn’t fit on the album.
Nico is a solid lyricist, in the sense that he can pen interesting rhymes and switch up his rhyme flows. Thing is, I’m not convinced that all of the flows that he showcases on The Beast Within match his knack for subject matter and intricate detail. Moreover, I just don’t think all of the flows are even necessary. On “emo” style beats (notably “The Beast’s Symphony,” and “Appear To Be”), Nico is out of place; he seems to be forcing out a flow rather than lyrically cutting loose. However, on solid rhythms and boom blap influenced tracks, Nico sounds natural, confident, and certain. On the more straight-ahead beat affair, Nico flows with charisma, and his voice comes thru clearer.
As far as the beats go, there’s a welcomed balance of sample-based and synthetic-sounds-based joints. And if Nico is the star lyricist on The Beast Within, then I’m convinced that Rhythm J is the spotlight beatmaker on this album. But I would be remiss if I didn’t note that Vanderslice and Kornswagger shine incredibly bright as well. In fact, Kornswagger delivers the album’s sure-shot single, “Number One Single.” And although the tracks made by Samik might catch some attention for their sheer “density,” they are ultimately more suited for R&B and not Nico’s straight-edge rhymes and flow.
Overall, The Beast Within’s stand-outs are very dependable. But, unfortunately, the album suffers because of a common case of quality control. There are quite a few stellar joints on The Beast Within, but it’s a shame that they have to shoulder selections that simply don’t measure up. If The Beast Within would have been smaller in scale—perhaps just 10 songs, instead of *16*—, it would have been a much stronger album. (If I had executive produced this project, I would have lobbied hard to keep tracks 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, and 13 off!) A straight dose of 10 songs would have tightened up the whole effort, creating track-to-track consistency, and making repeat listens more enjoyable. Nonetheless, The Beast Within is a solid effort that I feel comfortable recommending.Articles, Beatmaking, BeatTips, Music Reviews