Jul 9, 2015

Review: Pablo Frescobar - @RazFresco; A Niles P. Joint

Toronto is still forming an identity when it comes to hip hop. Kardinal Offishall had some success in the early 2000’s with his brand of rap infused with Jamaican influence. k-os has been active on the indie scene for quite some time. And of course, Degrassi alum Drake and his band of producers have been the most prosperous. Other than that and besides the MuchMusic set of underground Canadian emcees, T-Dot hasn’t produced any hip hop acts with huge potential. Enter Raz Fresco. The 20 year old rapper/producer has had success on the mixtape scene with this Bakers Club collective and recently released his debut album Pablo Frescobar with the help of Duck Down Records. I’ve been a fan since I saw him perform at the Duck Down BBQ in Brownsville last year so I was eager to hear and write about his inaugural album.

No More Fuckery is the intro. It uses vocal samples along with an interview with an irate Jamaican musician that was used on Sean Price’s last album. This leads to Live From Hades / Blood of Slaves. The first half of the song has lyrics that feature heavy conspiracy theory references.  The beat switches to something more mellow and is the better portion. Up North is the latest single and may be the best song on the album. It has a richly layered beat that shows every drop of talent that Raz Fresco has as a producer. The snapping snare punctuates the dreamy landscape of the instrumental. Overall it has the power lyrically to be a Canadian rap anthem of sorts. I hope it blows up. 4daGodz is much more laid back and sees Raz drop knowledge. He’s a member of the Five Percent Nation and thus has deeper lyrics than your average 20 year old. This could also function as a weed smoking song if that’s your thing. Influenza sees him trade bars with Raekwon. I previously wrote about it here and I’m happy to report that it still holds up.

Down is the first of few missteps on the album. Lyrically you don’t have to worry about Raz Fresco ever being a slouch. The beat was constructed to be more bouncy and club friendly almost.  It’s not awful but doesn’t fit with the rest of the album. Swervin in Bape features Tre Mission (the first Bakers Club appearance.) The violins on this song are beautiful but overall the song is kind of forgettable. I suppose it could be another weed song. New Pablo opens up with an interview with Raz’ mom telling how he got his name. Once it starts he talks about his ambition over a seriously underrated guitar. It’s unique as the beat doesn't drop until midway through the song. Fresco’s genius continues to show, both lyrically and production-wise. Another Nigga features more great guitar licks and sees Raz Fresco lament the overall structure of society. This is a bit of a concept track and Fresco’s best lyrical acrobatics are presented. Screwface City is a T-Dot rap anthem to complement the Canada rap anthem I mentioned before, albeit not redundant at all. You can feel the freezing Northern winds swirl past you as you listen to this track. It’s grown on me lately.

Raz revisits the split song concept on Warning Shots / Murda. Both sides feel more like a freestyle.  The second half features the grittiest drum/bassline combo you may see this year. Cortez Nikes has the most vintage feel on an album that periodically pays homage to yesteryear. The Slick Rick vocal sample is dope and Chuck Inglish steals the show with his guest verse. Godbody featuring Lo Thraxx is the weakest song on the album. The beat sounds like your run of the mill trap/drill joint.  Some will love it for that reason but it didn't seem to mesh with the fabric of the album. All Eye See brings things back on track. The beat keeps your head nodding and The 6th Letter adds a dope guest verse. Scarface Villas has the swankiest beat and some of the most vivid lyrics on Pablo Frescobar but is regrettably brief at a shade over a minute and a half. It was great while it lasted. Come & See Ya Nigga is the perfect choice for the penultimate song as it is contemplative and solemn. It’s the perfect setup for Equinox which features fellow hip hop wunderkind (and WTM favorite) Bishop Nehru. I wrote about it previously and months later it still retains it’s spookiness and snap.

I’ve always given props to these new heads that have the ability to both rap and produce exceptionally well. Raz Fresco is proving to be a prime example of this demographic. He isn’t even old enough to buy a drink in the US and is already wise beyond his years in a musical sense. His advanced lyrical insight comes from his background with the Nation of the Gods & Earths. Musically his beats are multifaceted and resonant. All of these make him a superb dual threat prospect in hip hop. This culminates on Pablo Frescobar. The album appropriately dropped on Canada Day and thematically is ambitious and sprawling just like the Great White North. In a couple of places Raz might have been a little too earnest in trying to combine both modern and classic sounds. 17 tracks is a lot for a debut and he may have been better served by keeping it at 13-14 songs. He’s at his best when he’s dropping jewels on his own or with an elder statesman (although the Nehru collaboration is a welcome trend that I hope continues). When he tries to keep up with the joneses and replicate what’s popular today on three tracks in particular, the album goes off the rails in consistency. However you can chalk this up to a function of youth. The older and more experienced he gets the better he will be at managing his music. He has plenty of time and has the ability to even pull a Statik Selektah and make an album of strictly guests rapping over his beats. No matter how you slice it, Raz Fresco has all of the tools needed to be a tour de force in hip hop and simultan Pablo Frescobar shows that Canada is no longer America’s hat but instead the exporter of one of the game’s most talented young rookies. Stream Pablo Frescobar below via HNHH.

Rating: 4 out of 5.


Multimedia Journalist, Founder and Chief Editor of WTM Host of A-Side B-Side Podcast and more. I like to talk about stuff and write it down. Sometimes to a microphone. Either way, I need you to feel this.

No comments: