ALBUM REVIEW: Charles Black “REM”
May 13, 2012 at 5:30 pm
I have never been more excited to review an album. I had seen Charles Black’s viral campaign leading up to this album, and it was not only intriguing, but it kept me wanting more. Too often do I come across a “preview” for a mixtape/album and say – “Hm. That looks like it’s gonna be cool.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve followed up with those. However, REM had me anxiously waiting for the next bit of news that I could get leading up to it’s release. I must say, it was well worth the wait.
Charles Black is a rapper that comes along every once and a while, and completely reminds you of what cinematic lyricism is about. Black paints pictures with his words so effortlessly, that it’s hard not to close your eyes while listening to this album. His energy, his timing, delivery, evrything is very close to perfect. He reminds you of a slightly easier to digest Childish Gambino. Great stuff.
After a short “Intro” that is just full of ambient noise, the stellar “REM” begins. This is truly one of the best original opening songs to an album I’ve ever heard. The thing that caught me was that I was unaware of when the song actually ended. It changed so much, production wise that you are kept guessing for over 5 minutes. It’s a triumph lyrically as well, giving some amazing thought to the content and how it relates to the theming of the album.
The nest track is a skit, so it’s a bit hard to review since we focus on the music here. But I will say this – REM’s skits enhance it’s music, which is very rare. They tell the story that the music cannot. “Phantasm/Dream Decisions” is great fun. The energy oozes throughout the speakers at an alarming quantity. Black is at his best here, getting a catchy chorus, and pairing it with very intelligent verses. The production is B.O.B-ish, but it doesn’t sound copycat-ish. Dream Decisions mellows out the beat a bit, but still keeps great energy. Unlike REM, you can tell that this song should have been two separate songs.
“Chains” is almost like an extended musical interlude, but it works. It’s very soundtrack-sounding. It just has that feel. “I Want To Be Free” is good, but the change of sound (even if only slightly) is a little much for me. However, that’s not to say that I can’t enjoy the song. His lyrics, as always, make up for anything that may fall short.
“Got Love?” is dead center for album placement, and it holds down the fort. It’s bluesey sample, along with some wonderful percussion work on the production side of things, make this a great track to vibe to. “Vent” is a huge track literally and figuratively. It clocks in at over 6 minutes, and it features some very deep content. The lyrics about his mother are straight from the heart, and the times where Black is most honest, are times that you can say the word “perfect”. The end of the track features a skit of sorts that really sets things into perspective for the listener. It’s beautiful.
“Hypnotic” is an instrumental. A great instrumental, but an instrumental nonetheless. “Never Again” comes in right after, sounding like a reject from 808′s & Heartbreaks, but it fits with the album, so I can’t complain. “The Outro” is on par with the rest of the music, and effectively wraps up the album story-wise. “You Knever Know” sounds so much like a Gambino track I swear I’ve heard it somewhere. But it isn’t. Black ends the album with this on a uplifting, triumphant note.
The album is a statement. A statement that music doesn’t exist soley to entertain the listener. REM was though-provoking, uplifting, and at times, a lot of fun. It’s cinematic approach helped it’s case in multiple ways. If you can get past the lengthy skits, and listen to everything, it will be an experience you won’t forget.
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