Hip Hop Album Reviews (10/2015)

Level Up

Level Up

Level Up cover art
Level Up cover art

An album by Hybrid the Rapper & DRIX

Review presented by Warren Peace

Listen to Level Up by Hybrid the Rapper & DRIX

Any artist(s) interested in having a review done should check out the offers provided by The Write Reviews or contact Warren Peace.


The Intro

Hybrid the Rapper was first introduced to the visitors of The Write Reviews when we reviewed his album Starseed. When I found out Hybrid the Rapper had joined with another emcee, who goes by the name of DRIX, I wanted to give the album a listen to see what Hybrid had put together this time. DRIX showed a lot of interest in having a review posted at The Write Reviews, so the two central Kentucky emcees will have my opinion on the album posted here for everyone to see. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the breakdown of Level Up…


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The Album

1- Level Up

I really like the idea of the beat, and I have since the first time I heard a beat like this. Unfortunately, this is not one of the better video game beats I have heard. Regardless, Hybrid and DRIX’s title track gets underway with Hybrid the Rapper spitting first to the beat. He showcases his ability to flow well over the beat and ties in a few video game titles throughout his verse, which is a cool, yet expected, added layer to his lyrics. His content is kind of scattered, though, as his lines don’t seem to follow a specific topic. DRIX is next on the microphone and immediately I notice his background vocals are a little off. One particular line throws me off every time I hear this track, and that’s where he attempts to rhyme Sketti (short for spaghetti) O’s and coveralls. His flow is pretty much on point and shows potential on the lyrical side of things. I’m not a huge fan of the last lines where DRIX sings, I feel they just aren’t well written. Level Up could have, and should have, started off with a stronger track that would attract listeners and get them intrigued more. The opening song of any album should always be one of the best tracks on the album, unless it is a skit or explanation used as an introduction to the album, of course.

2- Rise

Now, I really like the instrumental used for Rise. DRIX kicks things off with a little motivational speech, appearing to give this track some direction as opposed to the last one. Hybrid the Rapper takes the first verse, delivering line after line about how he has moved above other rappers in the game and how the audience is listening to the best. The hook can easily get stuck in anyone’s head simply because it repeats the same phrase over and over, but the performance is properly done. DRIX and Hybrid also add some chanting of “Level Up” during the chorus, which does help tie this track into the last one and creates a little diversity to the hook. DRIX has the second verse, picking up where Hybrid left off pretty much. He does a good job of switching up his flow from time to time here, but his lyrics are not complex at all. He even seems to compliment the rappers he is dissing when he says they’re smoking loud and that’s why they can’t hear him. I would not have referenced rappers I’m attacking to have the good chronic, or the good anything for that matter. The chorus comes back to close the track out. Rise is an alright song, definitely better than Level Up, but not all that impressive.

3- Ball Of Confusion

The instrumental here has a completely different feel to it than the last two tracks, and immediately I found myself wondering how DRIX and Hybrid the Rapper were going to approach this song. The answer is: A lot like they did on Level Up. No chorus here, just Hybrid and DRIX generally attacking other rappers while boosting themselves. Hybrid is first once again and gives the audience a lot of families while maintaining his signature sound and steady flow. DRIX actually rose above Hybrid lyrically on this one, I felt, due to a good injection of metaphors and having a crisp delivery with his words. All in all, Ball Of Confusion is a step up (albeit a pretty small step) from Rise lyrically, but lacks the bounce in the beat that Rise has and a catchy hook to get locked in the audience’s heads.

4- Fight In Me

This beat goes pretty hard, building some intensity and coming through the speakers hard. The chorus is on point, syncing with the vibe of the instrumental while putting everything in perspective and setting Hybrid the Rapper and DRIX up for a hell of a song. Hybrid the Rapper is the lead off emcee yet again, demonstrating his ability to spit double time really well while showcasing a consistent flow, although it would sound a lot smoother if his lines matched up in length or if he just kept the double time pace throughout his round of bars. His content is good, basically relaying how his determination and pride will not allow him to do anything but succeed, and he speaks about how he’ll smack up another rapper, of course. One of two memorable lines would’ve given Hybrid a damn near perfect verse here. The hook comes back, and I like it more the more I hear it, as it really helps in building the mood of the beat and makes me want to get hype. DRIX enters the track with the same content as he has on the previous three tracks, claiming he will battle anyone and he doesn’t think Drake is the best. Personally, I don’t know anyone who thinks Drake is the best emcee, so the line kind of kisses the effect DRIX was going for. The hook comes back to round out the track, and the album continues on.

5- That Raw

The instrumental for That Raw has some bounce mixed with a spooky feel, which is the type of beat a lot of emcees I know would love to drop some bars on. Hybrid jumps into everything, playing off of the spooky vibe with a Green River Killer line right away. Hybrid’s approach to his verse hasn’t changed, though he includes some wordplay and metaphors rather well while he spits about how he is so good as an emcee. DRIX is the main voice in the vocals for the hook, which has a way of getting stuck in your head and has more depth than the chorus on Rise. Next on the track is none other than DRIX, who’s vocals come through much quieter than Hybrid’s, and you would never have guessed it, but he spits a verse that mainly attacks other rappers then kind of branches off in a couple different ways. If the emcees would have come together to decide on a specific topic or angle, this track would have been a Featured Track without a doubt.

6- Bounce

The beat starts off a little on the slow side as the word Bounce repeats. The instrumental does kick in and pick up the pace, with DRIX getting the opportunity to spit first on Bounce. DRIX seems indecisive about his approach and doesn’t really have the club appeal this song seems like it is shooting for. On the second verse, Hybrid’s first few words “I wanna see you bounce like a bad neck” seems to sum up the track really well; not a good connection.

7- The Pain feat. Solystic

(as reviewed on Starseed, which is the first album this track appears on)

All three emcees come together to deliver solid verses that will definitely connect with the men in the audience. Speaking about issues in their relationships, each emcee adds his own flavor with between the lyrics and deliveries, but all three stick to the topic throughout and are able to reach a level field between them. I felt the beat was good for a track such as this as the music creates an emotional feel as well. The chorus is fitting, too. I enjoyed The Pain from start to finish, which is why it’s getting put on the Featured Tracks list.

8- Loose Screws

The beat reminds me of something that plays every time you walk on a Florida beach. Apparently, Hybrid and DRIX felt it would be more fitting to spit about having screw loose in their heads. Hybrid starts off spitting slow then picks up the pace rather quickly. Given the song’s title, hearing a Tupac reference was predictably bound to happen, and Hybrid certainly obliged. DRIX is the person delivering the hook, which could very well be the worst chorus on the album. DRIX says “Loosey, Goosey, I caught a cootie” to start his verse, then continues briefly about his childhood. As his verse develops, DRIX spits one of the best flowing and written sections I have heard from him, starting with the words “My spiking anxiety…”. The chorus gets set on repeat to close out the song.

9- Be About It

Just when you thought the “Level Up” chants taking place throughout the album had stopped, Be About Ir starts playing and brings them back! Not sure if DRIX and Hybrid noticed the sample from Dr. Dre’s “What’s The Difference”, but it’s clearly used in the instrumental, which I do like the overall sound of. Hybrid gets behind the microphone and seems to throw rhymes together with a flow that rides the beat well, but isn’t a smooth as usual for him. The hook is really good and catchy, but only makes Hybrid’s verse seem thrown together that much more. DRIX spits one of his best flowing verses of the album thus far, but continues to drop lines that leave me scratching my head, such as “Emotions run through me like ventilation ’cause I got secrets more deep than a Free Mason’s”. Having secrets causes emotions to run through you? It just doesn’t work for me. “I’m about to cut ’em off like a KFC chicken thigh”? Isn’t a KFC chicken thigh already cut off? Too many lines like this that miss are found throughout the album up to this point.

10- Static (radio)

Hybrid’s flow is choppy over this slow-paced instrumental, but his lyrics actually have direction and sticks to the topic throughout the verse. Here is another hook that comes together nicely and is likely to get stuck in the heads of listeners. DRIX’s verse mirrors Hybrid’s; choppy flow to a verse that actually has direction and sticks to a topic. When everything comes to a conclusion, Static (Radio) is one of the strongest songs on Level Up so far.

11- Shake It

DRIX puts together a pretty solid verse for Shake It as his flow is on point and the content stays with the topic. The hook, also performed by DRIX, proves it is catchy and fits the beat really well. Hybrid picks up where DRIX left off. Shake It is a really good song choice the album and becomes the second track to get a spot on the Featured Tracks list.

12- Love Me feat. Te$haun

Off the bat, let me say this is the best song (along with The Pain) so far on Level Up. DRIX and Hybrid not only deliver verses that stick to a topic, but both emcees put emotional flows that are on point with some good metaphors. A couple of corny lines fall through the cracks, though. Put Te$haun on the hook and you’ve got a winning chorus that pushes Love Me on the Featured Tracks list.

13- To The Limit

The beat has a pretty quick pace to it, and a sampled chorus built-in. DRIX, who’s first on the track, and Hybrid the Rapper spit bars that stick to the topic of getting to the top of the rap game (for the most part). There aren’t any truly memorable lines on this track, though, and for this type of topic (every emcee EVER has done a song about this, and this is like the fifth or sixth one on this album at this point), that is exactly what artists should be shooting for. Regardless, To The Limit is a good addition to Level Up.

14- Monster Inside feat. Tone Jones

The beat is incredible; I really like the feeling and vibe from this instrumental. DRIX and Hybrid seem like they’re on two different pages during Monster Inside as both emcees attack the beat differently with their verses. Tone Jones does a great job on the hook. Hybrid the Rapper delivers one of his best verses on Level Up. Monster Inside is another addition the Featured Tracks for Level Up.

15- You Can Get It

The instrumental for You Can Get It has some rock flavor to it. I’m finding that DRIX and Hybrid are using the same formula (verse, hook, verse, extended hook) for a lot of these tracks, which makes me wonder why there isn’t more diversity when it comes to song structure. Hybrid’s flow seems choppy here again, which isn’t typical for him. He includes a ton of metaphors in his verse. Hybrid is on the hook also, and does an alright job, but I feel would attract the listeners more if someone with a stronger singing voice sang the first few lines. DRIX’s flow is right on time here, but lyrically he could step it up. You Can Get It is one of the better tracks on Level Up.

16- Just For Fun feat. P. K.

I like how the instrumental has a completely different sound than any of the other tracks on Level Up. With P. K. on the hook, and his sound is really good, I have to question why a chorus about “doing what we want, just for fun” comes off with a sorrowful tone instead of a happy one. DRIX is up first on verses and there really isn’t much to say about it. “They don’t throw a party without DRIX’s cuts ’cause everyone around me know they all suck” should be worded differently because, at first, I thought DRIX was saying his own music sucks. Hybrid’s verse isn’t any better when he starts off with “We got jacked up like fluoride in with water”, or something like that. I’m glad Hybrid had “a good time” making the track. The same song formula gets implemented here again, as well.

17- Outro

Nearing the end of the album (Outro isn’t the last song, actually), Hybrid and DRIX go back to the thing they have done for most of the album; spitting bars about being great emcees while dissing other rappers in general. DRIX goes so far as to say he’s the next Biggie Smalls. News Flash: No, you’re not.

18- Knockout (TKO remix)

Hybrid and DRIX remix TKO with Justin Timberlake on the chorus. Both emcees stick to the topic at hand, flows are on time for the most part, and a few metaphors get thrown into their verses for lyrical flavor. Without any truly memorable lines, though, this remix doesn’t stand out much for me. That being said, Knockout (TKO remix) is a solid addition to the Level Up lineup.


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Features Tracks

The Pain, Shake It, Love Me, and Monster Inside.


The Write Up

There very well could be some feelings that come out after reading this review, and there is nothing wrong with that at all. The point of doing these reviews is not to piss people off or deter anyone from following their dreams. On the contrary, these reviews are to help artists improve and understand how someone who doesn’t know the artist truly feels about their music. That being said, I feel like Level Up has probably proved what I am about to say with its numbers, and only the artists will know if that is correct or not. Hybrid the Rapper has probably seen a substantial amount of decreased plays and downloads on this album compared to Starseed with the same amount of time after it got released earlier this year. In my opinion, Starseed was a step back for Hybrid. When it comes to DRIX, I feel this was a huge learning experience for him as an artist, and the fact the project got completed is something he is proud of. Both artists should have mixed up the content in the songs more if they were going to have a spread of topics on the album, instead of making half of the album about dissing rappers in general and self-hyping. Those type of songs are so abundant in the hip hop world that you really have to show you’re advanced lyrically to make heads turn. DRIX needs to study, yes STUDY, what the difference between metaphors, similes, punch lines, and wordplay are and practice implementing them into his lyrics. This takes a lot more practice than most young artists care to put forth. Also, developing multiple syllable rhymes helps to smooth over the flow of lyrics, as well as add some complexity to the verses. The more complex the lyrics are, the more true hip hop fans are likely to play tracks over and over, trying to catch the wordplay and other writing elements built into the lyrics. Think about the first time you heard “Me And My Girlfriend” by Tupac. You probably thought it was a song about a female. When you learned he spoke about a gun during the track, you probably played it back a few times to listen for the metaphors and comparisons, right? Hybrid the Rapper did a good job implementing these into his verses, but his distribution of similes is incredibly long when compared to metaphors, and metaphors are where it’s at, not similes. The punch lines that are thrown on the album missed nearly every single time and the rhyme schemes need to even out to have an easy flow to your words. Think of your voice like an instrument. If you have one line with twenty-four syllables, then a line with five syllables, followed by a line with thirteen syllables, and ending with a line of twenty-two syllables, can you hear how the difference in your syllable count can throw everything off course? You don’t have to take my advice or listen to my opinion, though. What the hell do I know? I’ll tell you what I know… I know the numbers won’t lie. This album should be treated like a learning experience and nothing else about it should be taken to heart. I will be keeping tabs on Hybrid the Rapper and DRIX to see when new projects drop, and hopefully there will be more reviews on both artists in the future.


Star Status

★ .5

(1.5 out of 5 stars)

Hybrid the Rapper has also had a review on his Starseed album!

Check out more great stuff at The Write Reviews by clicking the links below!

RETURN TO REVIEWS

ARTIST OF THE MONTH

FEATURED EMCEES

THE INTERVIEWS


Hybrid the Rapper on Facebook (here) and Twitter (here).

DRIX is found on Facebook and Twitter!

Warren Peace welcomes all comments, concerns, and questions on Facebook and Twitter!

Warren Peace writes...
Warren Peace writes…
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