When they write the history of hip-hop in 2008, they’ll have to write about Flo Rida. Growing out of Miami’s suddenly fertile ground, the slick-tongued and linebacker-built rapper exploded from a relative unknown to become the undisputed Duke of the Download, the Sultan of Singles, the Lord of Low, seemingly overnight. In a true sign of the times Flo’s debut album performed about as well as Fat Joe in a triathlon, but sluggish album sales doesn’t seem to bother the man much, probably because his smash single Low was literally the most popular song of …
DJBooth Album Review
Now, barely a year after Flo Rida’s meteoric rise to fame, the man’s back with a somewhat confusingly titled sophomore effort R.O.O.T.S, or Routes of Overcoming the Struggle, an album title you’d expect from…um…the Roots…not a man famous for comparing bootys to birthday cakes. Actually, R.O.O.T.S may just be the perfect album title. Flo has seemingly figured out that the fastest route to overcome the struggle is to make music people like to dance to; if by “the struggle” he means poverty and if by “overcoming” he means making money. Then again, maybe I’m completely wrong (it’s happened once before). Maybe the waters of Flo’s flow run deeper than it appears on the surface. Could he actually be a street poet hiding behind the crown of an iTunes king? Or is he really exactly what he looks like; an immensely talented man primarily interested in commercial success? As always, the answer’s a little complicated.
Impressively Rida’s almost managed to recreate Low’s extraordinary success with the bouncing Right Round. I can’t believe anyone alive during the ‘80s can listen to this song without laughing (the original was ridiculous even in an era of ridiculousness), but that hasn’t stopped Right Round from enjoying its own extended stay at the top of the charts. The track plays to Rida’s strengths, melodically smooth flows over catchy production, so it’s no wonder Round’s hypnotized America with its poppy appeal. Despite its historically and politically ambitious title, R.O.O.T.S has much more in common with Right Round than Alex Haley. The majority of the album is bursting with singles like the banging Shone or the bouncing Sugar, tracks brilliantly designed for maximum airwave impact that are almost guaranteed to blow up. Personally I’ll take the mellower Be On You, a synth-swirling track featuring Ne-Yo that astutely balances pop, rap and r&b, but with enough Patron I could easily be persuaded that R.O.O.T.S is god’s gift to the clubs. That would make Flo Rida the god of the clubs. Yeah, that sounds about right.
That doesn’t mean all of R.O.O.T.S lives on the dance floor. Scattered among the album’s pounding bass and dance-ready cuts are a handful of tracks that not only elevate this album above Mail On Sunday, but reveals that underneath Flo Rida’s swinging chain beats the heart of a lyricist. The deepness starts with the title track R.O.O.T.S, a stark look back at the impoverished street life Flo was born into. It’s a fascinating look into Flo Rida as a man, and a track that would be the album’s grittiest track it weren’t for Never. Never is the album’s confessional, a lyrically laden cut that shows the emcee is far more than a hit-making machine, he’s an intensely intelligent artist. Unfortunately the Wyclef-assisted Rewind doesn’t fare so well, largely because it sounds like Wycelf’s just going through his well-rehearsed inspirational anthem routine, but it’s still a brave track for Flo Rida that deserves credit for its inclusion on the album.
Ultimately, these moments of artistry clarity are drowned out by R.O.O.T.S’ mass appeal ambitions, but maybe that doesn’t really matter. Not everyone has to be Nas, maybe it’s enough that Flo Rida’s providing some well-deserved escape to everyone who gets off of work on Friday, puts on their freshest clothes and just does the damn thing. Still, I can’t help but hope that someday he’ll look in the mirror and ask not what rap can do for him, but what he can do for rap. Hip-hop can use all the help it can get.
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 03/30/09
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