An album by Terrell
Review presented by Warren Peace
Listen to “XXI” by Terrell
Artists with previously posted album reviews are returning to The Write Reviews by the bus load in our first month of our third year in existence. Terrell is one of the artists on that bus, having his Memoirs of a Cincinnati Maniac examined in a track-by-track breakdown by yours truly last year. Even though Memoirs of a Cincinnati Maniac wasn’t able to pull a trophy for Terrell at The Write Reviews, I will be quick to admit that I am eager to hear what XXI has to offer. The last album showed Terrell’s tremendous potential, and I have no doubt that XXI will push that potential farther than ever. Let’s find out by diving into Terrell’s XXI…
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1- The Vision
Terrell starts XXI by allowing an instrumental to resonate with his listeners, which isn’t how many hip hop artists begin their albums. Letting the beat dictate the mood to open XXI is a refreshing change of pace.
2- The Search
Almost immediately, I can hear more confidence in Terrell’s delivery than I remember hearing on his Memoirs of a Cincinnati Maniac album. His style switch up heard during the The Search doesn’t just keep things interesting, it also helps Terrell lock in a wider range of listeners because of the variety. Terrell scores a Featured Track here, even if The Search isn’t in typical track format. Honestly, this song competes for my favorite out of all of the songs by Terrell I’ve heard.
3- Outta My Head
Damn, Terrell scores huge with the third track of XXI titled “Outta My Head”. A woman’s voice is tied into the instrumental and delivers the hook wonderfully on the track. Terrell brings well written verses expressing a wide range of emotion through his down to Earth and direct bars. Self-reflection is the focus of the track, and Terrell does a great job addressing the issue. Taking note of the feelings conveyed in his delivery on this track would benefit Terrell greatly in the future. The second Featured Track slot of the album has been filled.
4- Memoir: Entry IV
The self-reflection continues, but this time Terrell is a little more scattered in his thoughts and admits it himself. There’s no hook here, just bar after bar of Terrell expressing the many different things weighing on his mind. It seems his ultimate goal for making music is to be famous, which might hinder him more than help in the long run.
5- Blessed Up
Really enjoying the instrumental selection so far. The message of this track doesn’t come across very clearly for me as there’s several contradicting statements and bars that have nothing to do with the song’s subject matter. The unnamed artist gets off topic more so than Terrell, no to mention his flow isn’t as smooth. Truthfully, his presence on the track has more of a negative impact than a positive one. The hook is catchy but is pretty dependant on repetition.
6- You Don’t Want It
Terrell seems to be losing focus at this point. “You Don’t Want It” appears to define ‘it’ as Terrell himself, but he doesn’t really explain why he feels the people don’t want him, and he doesn’t dive into the apparent topic of discussion- himself. Instead, most of the song’s lines consist of his struggle to be a successful artist. The lack of clarity will likely lose with listeners.
7- If I Told You
The volume of this track seems to lower and raise on its own, which isn’t good. The purpose of being an emcee and having this platform is to deliver a message you want people to hear, so the idea/concept of this song is lost to me. The hook, which basically tells the audience they wouldn’t listen to Terrell, will turn people away from listening. It’s not the idea as much as the presentation- directly telling people what they will or won’t do (in this type of aspect) is only going to push listeners away, and honestly, that’s exactly what happened with me.
8- Let Me Breathe
Terrell appears stuck on self-reflection. This track keeps things a little more interesting as Terrell has more conviction in his delivery, brings some writing elements (like wordplay) into his lyrics, and the featured artist on the track has a smooth flow and a solid delivery.
9- Fly feat. Sleep of The Fraternity
Terrell has a solid concept for “Fly” as he finally jumps off of the self-reflection. The first verse from Terrell opens the song with a solid set of bars that stay on course. The hook is catchy, but I feel it could do a better job of putting the song into perspective. Another featured artist makes an appearance on XXI, and that featured artist answers to the name of Sleep of The Fraternity. This is the most complete and well-rounded verse from featured artist so far on the album. Terrell comes back for the third verse with bars that rise above his first verse. “Fly” has a great message, speaks truth, and claims a spot among the Featured Tracks.
10- Memoir: Entry V
Out of the five Memoir segments (the first three are on Memoirs of a Cincinnati Maniac), Entry V is probably the shortest. Self-reflection is evident again, but Terrell moves things along with metaphors and shares some personal information by telling situations he had to deal with growing up to connect with the audience instead of telling the emotions he felt, which actually helps the audience connect more emotionally with the artist. Solid addition to the album.
11- The Fall
Terrell has the first verse and seems a little scatterbrained with his lyrics. The rhyme schemes and delivery at the end of the first verse are on point. The hook is one of my favorites from Terrell, and the bridge is very well written, in my opinion. The second verse picks up where the first one left off, which is effective and enjoyable. The third round of bars continues to passion and emotion within the delivery, and Terrell brings his lyrics to the audience in a manner that will keep them locked in if they give the song a chance. This is one of those tracks that grows on you, and jumps onto the Featured Tracks list when everything is said and done.
12- Long Time
The instrumentals on XXI continue to present unique sounds for the audience. The opening verse of the song has Terrell spitting bars about reaching his goals after years of fighting to succeed. After a round of the chorus, Terrell delivers a second verse by strictly singing. Explaining that he left his hometown of Cincinnati for Florida, which doesn’t seem unusual…until he mentions something about becoming a cop. That line could leave some jaws hanging, but not in a good way since the majority of hip hop fans are openly against the law.
13- Deserve It/ Doubt Me
Switching back and forth between singing and rapping, Terrell somehow starts out serenading a woman and ends the track by telling everyone he is going to be the best at what he does. He should be showing the audience why he’s going to be the best instead of finding different ways of saying he’s above the other artists.
14- Nights in the South/Memoir: Entry VI
Much like the recycled line he uses for the second song in a row (the ever-original “like Nike, I just gotta do it”), it really seems like “Nights in the South/Memoir: Entry VI” is a continuation of the previous song- both tracks even begin in similar fashion and conclude on a different, yet the same, topic. The end of this track gives the audience the sixth Memoir from Terrell, which provides a lot of information in just a few short sentences. Shedding some light on a few personal topics, Terrell opens eyes and is likely to reconnect with listeners because of it. I just wish more of his tracks on XXI we’re focused on the content shared in the brief words that close out the fourteenth track of the album.
15- Where Were You
I enjoy the feeling and presentation on “Where Were You”, but by the end of the track, I feel the message/point Terrell is trying to get across is lost in a song that comes together a lot like an incomplete thought.
16- Memoir: Entry VII/Til Next Time
Another entry into the Memory series, and another page of the “I’m going to talk about succeeding/nobody gets it or understands me” journal of Terrell. At this point, Terrell has spent half of the album, or more, delivering material that rephrases the same subject matter instead of finding a way to connect with the audience by talking about previous life situations and circumstances that people will be able to actually relate to while they listen.
17- XX to XXI
Just as I say something about using personal experience to connect with listeners, Terrell finally brings exactly that to a track for the audience. Of course he finds a way of talking about becoming the best, but on this son Terrell actually showcases his ability to get there instead of simply speaking about it. “XX to XXI” is performed in free-verse fashion instead of a typical song format, yet pushes it’s way into the Featured Tracks of the album.
18- Proud of Me (Bonus)
Easily one of my favorite tracks from Terrell, “Proud of Me” brings the subject matter needed to connect while displaying a smooth flow and real feeling behind his lyrics. If Terrell could continue an entire album like this from beginning to end then we would have a debatable classic on our hands. Very strong closing song to conclude the album.
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The Search, Outta My Head, Fly, The Fall, XX to XXI, and Proud of Me
THE WRITE UP
Terrell has grown in several areas since the last album I reviewed of his, and he still seemed a bit stagnant in a couple of others. When he wants to, Terrell can paint a wonderful picture, with imagery and detail, that allows listeners to feel like they are seeing the scenes first-hand. Unfortunately, Terrell would rather tell people how he feels directly, or how they should feel, instead of letting the pictures he can paint handle the emotional connection with the audience. Also, Terrell seems to talk about his struggle to succeed in music so much that listeners are likely to receive it as complaining or whining, and we all know how often those kids were picked to be on a team for kickball. Other than those two things, the only downside is the redundant subject matter that finds its way into nearly every track of the album.
Terrell does shown an extensive vocabulary, intelligence, and a passion for his craft that should be admired. Carrying these characteristics over from his previous album, Terrell steps it up by incorporating some wordplay, throwing some legit punchlines, and sticking it to the audience with several well written hooks. When he does make an emotional connection with the audience, it’s a connection that’s locked and bonded. I feel Terrell is definitely right on the cusp of where he wants to be, artistically, and could very well be there with his next album…if there’s a next album.
🌟 🌟 🌟
(3 out of 5 stars)
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