Verbal – Visionair
“DUPH DUPH DUPH”
This sounds like the noise which sometimes comes through my walls at 3 a.m. on a Saturday morning, while I bang in response on the wall and threaten under my breath to play Kirarin Revolution with my speakers pressed against the wall at 7 a.m. for revenge (not that I ever will…). To say that heavy drum and bass and hip-hop in general aren’t my kind of thing is an honest statement. There are a few artists I really like (Eminem, B.o.B. etc.) but if I had to chose a genre outside of East Asian music to listen to all night, this wouldn’t be it.
So when VERBAL announced his new solo project, dropped names like Lil’ Wayne, I did cringe slightly at the prospect of another TERIYAKI Boyz style sound. I’m a big fan of m-flo, the act which has probably got VERBAL most of his recognition, but TERIYAKI Boyz is still a little too far out of my comfort zone.
The main pull to some people in trying this album, both in the East and West, are the heavy weights who VERBAL has convinced to feature on his tracks. Nicky Minaj (or rather a sample of Nicki Minaj), Lil Wayne and Drake are the main US pulls, while Namie Amuro also stars on the albums feature track, the addictive, “BLACK OUT“. There’s also a Jay-Z sample used in “BALL and BOUNCE“. Other things you’d expect from this type of album are also true – it’s heavily auto tuned and contains a large amount of, what has been described as “Jungle/drum and bass/dub step” but to me is mostly unpleasant noise.
But name dropping aside, what’s the album like? There’s certainly an East meets West feel to this. Surprisingly or not, I found most the tracks I love to be those where VERBAL has been given a free reign and hasn’t been constrained by a “collaboration”. “I CAN’T HELP MYSELF“, one of my favourite tracks, has a very retro 80’s/90s new wave feel to it, while “FALL OUT feat. Shunya“, released as a digital single before the album is probably my favourite track, sounding like another new wave crash with sweet male vocals and VERBALs elite rap skills. It says something about my taste when the tracks I find a heavily like are those with a more Eastern influence. However, to say that the other tracks are strictly “Western” is completely untrue. VERBAL has created his own style with a mash of styles from the traditional hip-hop (CHANGE CHANGE feat. Nicki Minaj) rock outfits like the Transplants (LIAR feat. MADEMOISELLE YULIA), RnB (YOU ARE) and still has elements of his J-Pop stylings – there are also tracks like “NOTHING” which make no sense to the album at all… Whether you like the random variety or see this as an uncalculated mess is down to you.
So, overall, I have mixed feelings about this album. Yes, there are a few tracks that sound worthy of being blasted from the idiot boy racer’s car while you sit next to him at the lights (STOMP DEM ROACH), but there are also those tracks which you could easily listen to all day long. However, as for the flow of the album, or even the concept of the album, I feel something is lacking. To me, it almost seems like an epitaph of “look what kind of shit I could do” – without a real target audience, or direction.
So overall, definitely worth a listen, but I think VERBAL has a little way to go before really breaking out into the mainstream with his elicit style.
- VISION IN THE AIR
- BLACK OUT feat. Lil Wayne & Namie Amuro
- I CAN’T HELP MYSELF
- BALL N BOUNCE
- DOPE BOY FRESH
- Fall Out feat. SHUNYA
- HEY MISTER feat. Minami (CREAM)
- I WANT IT ALL
- CHANGE CHANGE feat. Nicki Minaj
- STOMP DEM ROACH
- LIAR feat. MADEMOSELLE YULIA
- YOU ARE
- I SEE YOU
- Some Other Place feat. Drake
Oh and my favourite line, from I can’t help myself, “X-Men, Magneto, Let me go”… WTF?