If there is one thing I want you to know, it’s this: I love mythology! You may have read some of my previous reviews and in those, you probably caught on that I am a geek of the highest order. My interest in mythology led to my love of comics since they are just modern day myths told with spandex-clad characters.
So for Bas to title the lead track of this album Icarus, after one of the most important stories of hubris, informed what kind of album I was to expect. Having someone with pipes like Ari Lennox bless your track is always a strong move. Lyrically the song is solid and there are 2 lines that stood out to me. The first one:
“I can't get jiggy with you clowns
I'm busy I've been giving New York City a whole new sound”.
Now I don’t think the line is meant to be a dig at Puff. I think, if anything, it is just mentioning that the style that came out of NYC during the Bad Boy era - and subsequent artists - had a hint of pop to their rap, and Bas doesn’t have time for that. I could wrong, he could just be throwing shade at rappers who look like clowns (y’all know who that could be.)
The second line made the geek in me happy:
“Thought I was escapin',
just to find myself right back in the Matrix,
both pills blue”
The Matrix came out almost 2 decades ago and we are still using the blue pill to reference being blind to the world we live in. Plus, pointing out that the idea of choice is fake because both pills are blue, was subtle but perfect.
Which makes the move to “Front Desk” a weird one for me. The beat is good, the flow is good but the actual lyrics… heard it before, to be honest.
I guess the bragging about women wanting you is still a thing, or rather more than this is casual, “don’t overthink it” is the current hook-up climate and songs to reflect that are important to tell the story that “modern love” is disconnected.
I understand WHY the song exists, I would have just put it later on in the album.
‘Cause following it up with one of the best tracks on the album was a rollercoaster of attention. “Tribe” features J.Cole and the fact that Cole signed Bas is not lost on you with this track. Cole respects Bas. If you haven’t heard them together before this track will speak volumes about how they work together, why they work well together, and why Dreamville’s sound could actually be the branch that blends hip-hop for old heads and new kids alike.
“Boca Raton” with A$ap Ferg is a pretty fun track. First (and hit me up if you think I’m wrong). That instrumental sounds like a slightly sped up “This Is America”. The rap is kind of a joke too, it’s one of those songs you don’t have to take too seriously, ‘cause the artist just went in and did their thing. Next, we get “Barack Obama Special” with one of the smoothest productions out there EVER. Ron Gilmore made the type of instrumental Q-Tip, Questlove, and all those other jazz sample producers wish they could have made. Knowing Ron, there are no samples on that track either, that’s just straight from his talented mind. Having a beat like that can only be matched with an equally well delivered rap and Bas brings the skills. Rapping about being a more recognizable name and seeing hard work turn to a tangible experience:
“Puttin' in work, fuck how you feel
Buy my family trips, fuck value meals.”
The lesson in that line is, comfort is never needing to buy another value meal. Think about that while we jump into the next track “Purge”.
My favorite track on the album, “Purge” is another Ron Gilmore track and goes to show that he may now also be my new favourite producers. Fast-paced, well-delivered, smart lyrics and fun to listen to… it has all the elements to make for a solid end of summer track. The type of track where you actually listen to the lyrics at a summer jam, walking around looking for your buddy and laughing to yourself when you hear the line:
“In the drop top, bitch hop in it already
Yelling "fuck the cops," middle fingers to the opps.”
“Fragrance” to “Infiniti+2”.... I don’t know. I listened to them, but to be hones,t the first time I listen to the album, I skipped them and only went back when I was writing this review. After two attempts, “Fragrance” did not grow on me. “Infiniti+2” equally did not wow me, but on the re-listen, I wasn’t mad at it. “Sanufa” is unique, that is my diplomatic way of saying listen to it and form your own opinion. When I hear it, I picture a beach club scene in a movie and that is only amplified by the sound of film running at the end as it leads into the skit after the song.
It is kind of weird to say this but “PDA” is Bas’ romantic attempt to tell someone how much they love them. Hip-hop may be more mature but sometimes rappers still drops lines like
“I think I could spend time with you my whole life, fuck the hoes lies
You know they got no lives, you know they got no lives.”
And I ain’t even mad at it. Honestly, I can’t even pretend like the song isn’t good, it’s… weird to say “I think I could give up other women” by saying “fuck hoes lies” but who am I to judge? I’m a rap fan not a rap artist. I’ll leave the lyrical love play to the professionals.
We now get to the end of the album with “Designer” and “Spaceships + Rockets”. While the latter is the perfect ending to the album, the former would have been a great second track. Yes, the energy in “Designer” is lower but could work as a great bridge between “Icarus” and “Tribe”. While “Front Desk” could have been moved down near “Fragrance”. I’m essentially moving all the songs in an order I would prefer ‘cause nowadays, most albums are just multiple singles released at the same time. While streaming wise it’s great, it isn’t the best for storytelling.
Guess what though? Milky Way’s theme of love and growth works. I listened to this album three times, once in order, once in my order and once backwards and they all work as well as you could want. Meaning that each track stands on its own, or the more likely scenario, the album is strong enough to be consumed in any order. I’ll say this, Bas is a talented rapper, who worked with talented producers and is part of a solid collective. In a rap world that celebrates jesters, Bas is more interested in being a King.