A year and change after the release of critically acclaimed Strange Music debut Take Me to Your Leader, Miami live-band hip-hop ensemble ¡MAYDAY! have unleashed their highly-anticipated follow-up. Coming on the heels of Booth-featured street releases Smash & Grab and Thrift Store Halos, Believers features 15 original records from Wrek, Bernz and company, including Booth-premiered single "Shots Fired" and the reader-approved title track. An iTunes deluxe edition packs three additional cuts.
In addition to group members Bernz, Gianni Ca$h, Plex Luthor and Wrekonize, Infamous and Ralfy Valencia provide production on the set, which boasts guest appearances from the likes of David Correy, Irv da Phenom, Kardinal Offishall, Stevie Stone and Tech N9ne.
Believers Album Review
The two emcees at the front of the band, Wrekonize and Bernz, possess rapid-fire, pinpoint flows that are clearly rooted in the Tech N9ne (whose label, Strange Music, they are signed to) school of hip hop, as they dart in and out of each instrumental just as Tech is famously known to do. In hip hop, it’s not always what you say but how you say it, and while ¡MAYDAY! may not astound lyrically, their flows are addictive and technically impeccable. Shots Fired showcases this perfectly as the two trade rhymes over a militarily influenced beat that the band must have composed on a battlefield with gunfire raining down and soldiers marching in the heat of a battle around them. It’s intense. It’s assertive. And it’s a feeling that is weaved throughout each song on the album.
Aside from being home to two lyricists that excel in the art of flow, ¡MAYDAY!’s music contains another element that makes it so unique: the ability to craft a fantastic hook. Not just a catchy hook that will lodge itself in your membrane for days, but one that is also packed with meaning and melody, that effectively supplements the theme of the respective song. Unplug, a record that features a back from the dead Kardinal Offishal, relates to the struggles of finding a connection to things that matter in life (strong faith, good people, etc.) while being so plugged in to things that have little meaning (drugs, technology, toxic relationships).The hook, supplied by Wrekonize, is utterly catchy and perfectly captures the idea behind the verses.
Musically the album sees ¡MAYDAY! drawing inspiration from their multitude of influences, including a heavy dose of rock, some grassroots and blues, and more subtly, soul. The diverse assortment that comprises the musicians in the group allows the album to successfully incorporate this gumbo of sounds. HighRide features a steady, simple guitar riff over some crisp drums that, when paired with Wrekonizes surprisingly smooth vocals, results in one of the album’s highlights. Miami, while technically in the south, isn't particularly known for having a southern musical identity, but On That Jack shows the band is still influenced by that region’s musical palette. The bluesy vocals on the chorus and overall southern bounce to the track punctuate the image of a whiskey sipping ¡MAYDAY! lounging around in the sticky heat of a southern summer.
Although the majority of Believers is a high quality melting pot of sounds and vocals, the album has its flaws, and hits an especially rough patch of three tracks beginning with My Life and ending with Tear Sh*t Down. The latter’s chorus sounds like a throwaway Black Eyed Peas song, and Wrekonize and Bernz seem to slow down their flow and dumb down their lyrics a bit. The former is repetitive in its beat and hook, and cliché in its concept and execution. This sobering, short lived mid-album dip in quality doesn't last long though, as the band picks things up immediately and finishes the festivities with some of the album’s best tracks (Forever New, Shortcuts and Dead Ends).
As the chaos rages on, helicopters hum threateningly above and bomb shrapnel and smoke dominate below, ¡MAYDAY! is in the center, soaking up the scene and translating the feelings and emotions into their music. From their assault rifle approach and battle ready beats to their mellowed out hooks and deeply emotional content, ¡MAYDAY! runs the musical gamut on Believers. In spite of its minimal missteps, the end result is one of 2013’s finest releases. The war reporter is a crucial umbilical that connects the realities of a war to the people, and ¡MAYDAY! and the music they put out serves the same purpose for all the Believers in the world.
DJBooth Rating - 4.5 Spins