I always try to bring some creativity to these reviews, to find an angle on an album that no one else is taking. After all, I just finished comparing Lil Wayne’s I Am Not a Human Being to a high school make out session, and Rick Ross’ Teflon Don to the classic crime flick Scarface. So as The Niceguys new album The Show coursed through my headphones over the last few days I searched and searched for an angle, but couldn’t find one. The whole “niceguys finish last” thing is played out, and any “this …
DJBooth Album Review
A lot, starting with some background. If there are other four person groups with one emcee (Yves “Easy Yves Saint” Ozoude), one DJ (Lucien “DJ Candlestick” Barton ) and two producers (Todd “Cristolph” Louis and Winfrey “Free” Oribhabor), I can’t think of them, and that heavy emphasis on musicality undoubtedly gives the Houston quartet their distinctly complex and eclectic sound, a complexity and eclecticism that is always rooted in hip-hop fundamentals. Venturing so far from the norm without become uprooted is a delicate balance that few have the skills or willingness to achieve, so by that measure alone The Show has to be considered a success.
Damnit, I thought I said I was going to make this review simple. Let’s reset. Put plainly, The Show is dope, and it’s the voice of The Niceguys, Easy Yves Saint, whom I’ll be referring to as Easy Yves (R.I.P. Eric Wright) from now on, who supplies the bulk of their dopeness. Those interested in most accurately assessing Easy’s rap abilities should fast forward to Good Shepherd, a jazzy, smooth joint whose beat takes the backseat so he can take centerstage. One listen to Shepherd and there’s no doubt that the man’s precise tongue and alliterate rhyme scheme (that’s “alitterate” for all the illiterate folks) make him a leader in a game full of sheep trained to only follow. When you’re the only one with a mic you’ve got to have some versatility, and luckily Easy proves that he can up the aggression on the hard-rock edged Mr. Perfect, cool out his vocal cords on the Sunday-afternoon-mellow cave and confidently brag and boast (and drink and smoke) with the best of them on Toast. More basic emcees wouldn’t be able to keep up with all these style and tempo switches, but luckily Yves’ Swiss Army knife flows can apparently handle any challenge throw at them. (Note to self: Pitch Yves Saint Laurent on a designer Swiss Army knife. Recruit Easy as the spokesman. Collect 10%. Purchase Bentley.)
As nice (pun intended) as Easy Yves is on the mic, without Christolph, Free and Candlestick he’d just be a dude talking, so it’s only right we take some time to focus on The Show’s stellar production. Let’s get right to it – the more I listen to It’s Like That the more I’m convinced it’s one of my favorite beats of the year (see also Still Not Famous, General Patton, Hometown Hero, etc.). How Christolph managed to blend jazz horns, layered percussion and a vocal harmony I can’t imagine, but the result is impossible to ignore. If you don’t feel this beat, we can’t be friends. Yeah, it’s like that. While on a larger level I’d point to the breezy feel of both Things Ain’t the Same and Somebody as proof that The Niceguys have the potential to make a splash on radio without dumbing themselves down, on a personal level my other favorite boardwork on the album is easily Contraverses, a record that begins begins with a jazz feel, morphs into a muddy rock vibe overlain with horns, and then halfway through completely switches into a dark banger utilizing a sample I recognize from Pharoahe Monch’s The Mayor. It may sound complicated on paper, but on speakers, it’s just ill.
I have to admit that the last two paragraphs were inherently flawed. While it (hopefully) made for good reading, separating out the vocals and production is like separating the peanut butter and the jelly. The Show sounds go good precisely because The Niceguys manage to take their dizzying array of influences into a cohesive whole. It’s simple really. When you make music this good, you don’t need an angle.
Listen to More: The Niceguys Written by Nathan S.
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