Hip Hop Album Reviews (10/2016)

Checks and Balances

CHECKS AND BALANCES

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An album by Crash Barbosa

Review presented by Issac Sandoval

Listen to “Checks and Balances” by Crash Barbosa

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


THE INTRO

Crash Barbosa knows he has a voice and he has no problem letting everyone know what he has to say. Crash approached me through social media after discovering The Write Reviews and let me know he was interested in having his album reviewed. I let him know we would be interested in reviewing his album. Crash Barbosa submitted Checks and Balances to me and I thought Issac Sandoval would be the perfect person to analyze an artist who seems open minded but isn’t shy to say what he has on his mind. The result is the review that follows.


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THE ALBUM

1- Downtown

The track begins slow and speed ups, similar to the way a record sounds when the RPMs are turned up. Next we’re hit with a dope beat that has clearly been created to be the backdrop to an anthem. There is so much potential in this beat that is almost immediately dashed once Crash begins his first verse. Crash is not flowing, he is simply speaking. The rhymes are so simplistic that it instantly takes you out of the listening experience. If there’s a redeeming factor to this track it is that it is one of the few to employ the use of multisyllable rhymes, and has a hook that would have worked for an anthem type track.

2- Give Me

The first words of the hook are “driving drunk” which is used in a braggadocious manner and I find this to be disturbing because of the way Crash is going to contradict himself later. We’re not talking a minor, potentially accidental slip-up here, it is a strong one eighty to say the least. The tnire song is a juvenile celebration of excess and bad choices all while employing Crash’s monotone delivery, stale flow, and simplistic lyrics. I can’t tell if he’s attempting to tell a story and failing, or just compiling a random collection of events to rap about.

3- Shadows

After the excessive bragging in the previous record Crash continues to pat himself on the back with the skit that intros Shadows despite the fact that it has nothing to do with the subject matter. The first verse is one of Crash’s best. It’s one of his most animated flows and deliveries and it finally gives us a taste of artistry and personality. As well as touching upon some very personal matters his lyricism has been taken up a notch on this third track. After a haunting sample hook, the second verse is a return to the monotone delivery and lack of lyricism.

4- Enough

We’ve got an industrial Hip-Hop backing and a hook that sounds like Crash is reading it, and this carries over into the verses. Whereas the hook might be a little catchy for some, the verses once again take you right out of it. After getting four tracks in it has now become a conscious decision to keep yourself from checking out during the verses only to check back in when the hook comes back around and provides twenty seconds of familiarity if nothing else.

5- Hurt

My favorite beat to this point which is comprised over some soft percussions over what sounds like a pan flute, or pipe organ. It’s incredibly original, and a far cry from the instrumentals you will typically hear in the underground. The excitement is over quickly as this instrumental that was destined for some deep subject matter is force fed substance without artistry. In the underground I see many fans excuse poor music as long as it has a message, ladies and gentlemen I present the first verse of Hurt as a case study for the opposing view. Instead of focusing on a single issue or even a few that may be close to his heart, Crash recklessly jumps from global crisis to global crisis. I think this verse is good intentioned, but is certainly an example of an artist painting with too broad of a brush. The second verse is then a transition from the global scale, back to Crash himself, and it is a verse loaded with self-depreciation and ego, a mix that few blend nearly as often as Crash Barbosa.

6- Drugs

Drugs is the second example I present to you for substance without artistry, and a record that is sure to leave you scratching your head. Unlike the first verse of Hurt, Crash is very focused on this record…or maybe not. He’s focused on drugs and the interplay in this society between them and our adolescents, but it becomes unfocused and jumbled when rather than focusing on drugs as a whole, he feels it necessary to touch on a wide array of drugs and how each can adversely effect one’s life. I would like to draw attention to one specific point Crash makes that really shows what potential this track has. “America is high as hell/pharmaceuticals are doing well/the cray thing is we can barely tell/the American dream’s that easy to sell.” I know those lines are oozing with lyrical ability, but I had to include the first three bars to give the reader’s a reference point. That last bar, the point he is trying to make right there is what could’ve taken this track from disappointing to incredible.

7- Love

Okay, I’m going to just keep it all the way a buck right here: this hook is bad. Next level bad. Up to this point even though the album has been a struggle, Crash has had a few hooks that were good. The hook had all of zero percent to do with the two verses, both of which focus on another buffet spread of issues, this time on the national scale, and apparently this is his love song.

8- Drunk

This is where that hard, jerking one eighty occurs. Crash has bragged about doing drugs and drinking on a few of the tracks, yet here on Drunk he paints the sad picture of how these people can throw their lives away for substances. He gives first-hand accounts of the destructive properties that drugs and alcohol can have on the user’s life and on the lives around them. The craziest thing is that Crash sounds just as sincere in his resentment of this lifestyle as he does about embracing it in other songs. This takes away from the effect of both songs, because it leaves us wondering where you really stand and who Crash really is.

9- Frustrated

Another unorganized attempted at substance as he jumps from his personal problems, to police violence, to the sex trade? At least that’s what I gathered from the line “they auction our children.” The hook itself acknowledges the fact that Crash is trying to cover as much subject matter as possible when he says, “why can’t we all just get along/here’s all the reasons in a single song.” It’s too much when Crash not only leapfrogs from topic to topic, but then goes back to touch on one of them again.

10- L.A.

Here we get the anthem that we probably should’ve had over the instrumental used for DownTown.  I’m of course strictly referring to the style of the song, because once again this is not a good song.  The beat isn’t terrible, but it absolutely does not fit with the rest on this album, completely out of left field with this one.  While the hook is one of the better ones on the album there is something about it that bothers me. When Crash says “that’s how we do it in L.A./other states saying we cray.” Well first things first, he has definitely used the word cray far too often on this album.  Secondly, L.A. is a city, not a state.  That may be nit-picking to some of you, but it’s little details like this that can take listeners out of the album even subconsciously.


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FEATURED TRACKS

Shadows


THE WRITE UP

No need to beat around the bush, this is not a good album. What this album does do well is the beat selection minus the instrumentation for L.A. is enjoyable, original, and meshes well together. Another thing that was done well is a few of the hooks. Some of the hooks on this album are quite fun and catchy, but this isn’t enough to save the album, because even some of the hooks are bad.
At The Write Reviews we do not wish to tear artists down, but I promise you that what is about to follow is nothing more than honest critique, even thought it’s going to sound harsh. Crash is not rapping on this album, he is speaking in single sentence increments that happen to fall in between the snares. There is no flow, there is a distinct pause at the end of every line with nothing to bridge one line to the next. There is no emotion or inflection to his voice, there are people who get more animated when talking about their weekend around the office water cooler on Monday morning. Crash does not stay organized in his writing as he leaps large gaps in subject matter in a single bound, as well as harshly contradicting himself in his music. This lack of organization and conflict in message leaves me no more familiar with Crash than I was prior to listening to the album. The album itself is hard to listen to for the same reasons making for an overall unenjoyable listening experience.


STAR STATUS

(1 out of 5 stars)

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