It might sound strange to those of use whose lives revolve around hip-hop, but hip-hop is an outsider. It was born in a place most Americans tried to ignore, the smoldering South Bronx, and even though it has recently become heavily commercialized, the hip-hop mainstream is still outside the American mainstream. In turn hip-hop has become equally wary of outsiders, easy to pounce on anyone who strays far from the “verse-hook-verse over a dope beat” formula. It’s a mindset that’s protective, but creatively stifling. A mindset that equates “real” with what has come before. A …
DJBooth Album Review
Spree Wilson’s parents filled their house with everything from the Beach Boys to Jimi Hendrix to De La Soul, so it’s no wonder that the Atlanta based rapper/producer/singer/guitar player/etc.’s music is as diverse as his upbringing. His willingness to mix styles and influences without hesitation has earned Spree a slowly but surely growing fanbase, a fanbase that will no doubt have sky high expectations after listening to his EP Evil Angel. A predecessor to his debut album The Beauty of Chaos, Evil Angel is a six-track tour through Spree’s eclecticism that leaves his future in music as wide open as his musical range.
Most people are probably familiar with Spree from his work on Novel’s Dreamworld, a track that serves as a melodic judgment day of sorts for rappers willing to say anything, as long as it’s profitable. Spree’s contribution to the track is an opening guest verse that showcases his eccentric rhyme style and lyrically adventurous leanings; how many rappers would reference Allen Ginsburg? (Random aside: I realized today that the 2:50 minute mark of Dreamworld sounds remarkably like Color Me Badd’s Sex You Up. And yes, these are the kinds of things I spend my day thinking about). As engaging as Spree’s feature is on Dreamworld, I’m honestly unconvinced that he can carry an entire track by himself on rhymes alone. The closest we come to answering that concern on Evil Angel is the electronically oriented Word, a No I.D. produced joint that Spree carries capably but fails to truly own, attacking the track so hard he forgets to let it breath where it needs to. Still, spending any significant amount of time criticizing Spree based solely on his rapping is a relatively useless endeavor, like criticizing an ice cream sundae just because the cherry isn't perfectly sweet.
Even referring to Spree as a “rapper” is ridiculously limiting. More than half of Evil Angel consists of hard to categorize pop-rock tracks featuring Spree’s floating yet engaging singing voice. Personally, I prefer Spree in this mode, particularly on the hypnotizing I Believe She’s Lying, a track that hums along on a quickly stuttering percussion line while he sings about a disintegrating love affair. If I could point to any track as proof of Spree’s versatility and boundless possibility it would be I Believe, though it’s a similar story on Chaos, a more acoustically oriented cut made to be played on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Incorporating spacey synths and a warbling guitar solo, Chaos at times sounds sometime like Coldplay, sometimes like the Beatles, but always like Spree Wilson. Ultimately, it always sounds like Spree Wilson.
If Spree has been consistently compared to Andre 3000, and he has, it’s mostly because there are simply so few options. Spree sounds like Andre, or Gnarls Barkley, or Janelle Monae or whomever else not necessarily because he actually sounds like them, but because they’re some of the few artists who are similarly committed to defying easy definition. After listening to Evil Angel I can honestly say that I have no idea how Spree’s debut album is going to sound, all I know is I’ll be listening. Spree Wilson is an outsider, and we need more outsiders.
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 08/12/09
First DJ Booth Appearance:
"I Am ft. Talib Kweli & Spree Wilson" (2008)
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