Monday 5 November 2012

#MixtapeMonday - XV & The Squarians: Vol. 1

Lyrics: 1.7/ 5.0 - Production: 3.9/5.0 - Overall Score: 2.8/5.0

Review by Reesh - Follow me on Twitter! I won't bite! Well, maybe a little - @MrReesh

Squares. I like squares, they're like one of my favourite shapes. However after listening to "XV and The Squarians", people who proudly define themselves as squares, the square has slipped several places down the list, even after the legendary pentacontakaioctagon.

Squarians Vol 1 is the first mixtape by upcoming Kansas rapper XV and his crew The Squarians, namely Freddy High, Sez Batters and producer The Awesome Sound, while the mixtape is hosted by DJ Richie. While XV’s profile has been growing brainblowingly since the release of his 2009 mixtape Everybody’s Nobody, the other three have kept a relatively low profile up to this point.

Now don't get me wrong, this mixtape isn't garbage, it's actually decent. But that's it; it's a mediocre collection of sound-waves, and the reason why it is lies in one of the more overlooked aspects of songwriting these days: the lyrics.

They spinnin', oh yes they spinnin'
The mixtape is absolutely overflowing with that bravado, “I'm better than you, check these models, oh schnap homie I got so much money I’m gonna put spinners on a camel!” kind of rap. For the first few tracks it's not so bad, you can nod your head to it like "yeah man I hear that ish yo!" but then as the mixtape goes on it begins to feel tedious, boring and ultimately painful. After a few playthroughs I literally ripped my headphones out when the L7 Party Freestyle came on, choosing to sit there in silence with the remaining pieces of my sanity. And lyrically EVERY song on the mixtape is like that, with a couple songs deviating in such a way that it does get some actual content within it, but not so much that the song instantly becomes memorable.

However two things really push the mixtape from being terrible to decent: the flows and the production. These guys can really string a rhyme together, I mean damn. Flow is rapid and each word appears to fall on beat so artfully it's actually beautiful. Sure some flows you may have heard somewhere else, but these guys really make it their own. And the production! Each sample is wonderfully selected, creating beats with real character and feeling, and once the novelty of the lyrics wears off, these are what you really listen out for. The Awesome Sound produced Must Be Cray has to be my favourite original song on the mixtape, whose uplifting choruses and simple hip-hop drumline create a song which is both exciting to hear yet relaxing to listen to. A Situation and Why Wouldn’t also have standout instrumentals whose 70’s style smoothness is akin to that of Rick Ross’s Maybach Music (produced by J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League) creating points in the mixtape where you feel to simply stop and enjoy the view, if you can ignore the dying cat that is the lyrics.

I don't even like brie
To me, this mixtape is like going to a 3 Michelin star restaurant for completely free, but they only serve you cheese. At first you’re like “mmm, brie! Red Leicester! Gouda!” but then after gorging yourself on copious amounts of cheese you realise all you're getting is cheese, and you get sick of it. You start longing for some lobster bisk, some sirloin steak, or at least a small bowl of vegetable soup which XV & The Squarians simply fail to deliver here. It’s a very annoying shame too, as XV at least is very clearly capable of creating some bangers, such as Used To or Mirror’s Edge from the Everybody’s Nobody mixtape.

Still the mixtape is worth a listen if you don’t mind intensely commercial rap too much, and I do remain positive for Squarians Vol 2. If these guys can manage to add some real, genuine non-cheese flavoured content to their rhymes, then Vol. 2 will be truly be something great.

My Top 3:
1) Must Be Cray
2) Can’t sleep
3) Don’t Like (freestyle)

Cheese picture credited to Smabs Sputzer "Cheeses"
Camel picture credited to Neil and Kathy Carey "Our Camels"

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