One of the things that makes music so special is the relatability of it. Listeners can really connect with an artist, record or song. Music has this way of reaching through and speaking directly to a person. At its core it can inspire, motivate, encourage and educate. Great hip hop has done just that thru the years. The more an artist is transparent and bold, the better the listener can connect with the music by creating a musical experience unlike anything else.
As a group theBREAX have been known to create many experiences just like the one I was describing. As a member of the highly successful group, has been able to carve out a rather impressive resume up to this point. His work on the early records with the group was good. As the group grew, Beleaf also grew as an artist. His work on the BreaxOver series was nothing short of masterful. If nothing else, he proved that he was a top tier talent. He had yet to prove he could be great as a solo artist. In early 2013, he released the critically-acclaimed mixtape Theo’s Gift, where he showed that he could carry a mixtape on his own.
With a resume as long and extensive as Beleaf’s it’s hard to believe that he hasn’t released a solo album. On June 27th, that will change as Beleaf is set to release his debut album Red Pills and Black Sugar.
Beleaf has become known for his tremendous lyrical ability. He has improved lyrically with each record he’s been on and is widely considered one of the best in the genre. On Red Pills and Black Sugar Beleaf proved that to be true. Making the transition from member of a group (or duo) to solo artist has proven to be tough task for many artists in hip-hop. This was not the case for Beleaf; he made the transition look easy. He shined on this record by himself and showed all the lyrical ability he had.
Red Pills and Black Sugar takes more of a serious tone conceptually. For that to work the artist has to be skillful with his delivery and use some finesse. That is just what Beleaf did. Throughout the record Beleaf was a master at changing his tones to match the feel of the song. “Suicide Roll” is an example of that. Beleaf used his delivery and lyricism to create this experience. This draws the listener in and brings the record to life. It was a pleasure to hear Beleaf deliver on this record.
The delivery was great but with out a strong lyrical performance it’s all for not. That’s what makes this record so special because Beleaf’s lyrical performance was nothing short of amazing. Red Pills and Black Sugar is a dream for those fans that love pure lyricism. There’s storytelling, metaphors, similes, entendres, deep intellectual stuff and gut-wrenching transparency that all comes together beautifully. In addition to all of that Beleaf excelled in conceptual lyricism, which may be the most impressive part of this record. Beleaf uses all of those lyrical skills I mentioned earlier but he crafts them around an ongoing them that helps bring the record to life. There is no part of Red Pills and Black Sugar that lags in lyricism; the whole record has a high level of lyricism. This is best represented on “Depression” featuring Mr. J Merdeiros, Jackie Hill, JGivens and MartyMar. This track is an attention grabber because of the features but the real substance is in the amazing lyricism displayed throughout the record. Not to be out shined on his own record Beleaf dropped this little gem:
“Them Internet girls had me in a net
The wide world is a web, spun to capture us in sex
I know I’m buggin’ out with the intellect
But my mind was infested with images I have invested
And became to diminish it
I tried to terminate the termites
Until the tug of war turned my mind into a terabyte”
No album is complete without great production. With a record that has the lyricism this one does, it could be a challenge to match the production level with the lyricism. That didn’t even seem like a problem on Red Pills and Black Sugar. The sound was just as smooth as Beleaf’s delivery. The quality of the production was beautiful and crisp.
The beats on Red Pills and Black Sugar were the perfect backdrop for what Beleaf was trying to create. Everything was made to create an experience. The production starts by setting the table for this experience. The music creates an environment that allows the listener to SEE what Beleaf is rapping. Even though the sound lays the foundation it never plays the background. Time and time again you’ll be hit repeat just to hear the beat again. “InJoy” featuring Ruslan and John Givez is the perfect example of this. The song is amazing as are each of the individual performances, but that beat is ridiculous. All that together creates that fantastic listening experience that allows the listener to enjoy something different every time they listen.
There is also an amazing amount of versatility in the production. There is a variety of sounds that match the tone Beleaf is creating for that track, and that fits into the overall tone of the album. The sound has more of a rugged hip-hop feel that will have hip-hop heads snapping their necks. But the most clever aspect of the production was tying it into the concept. The record has a more serious tone and the production takes that on that tone and brings it to life. The production really brings the listener into Beleaf’s world. On top of that there is an organic feel to the sound of the record, with the different sounds and instruments used. That is always a hard balance to strike perfectly but Beleaf meshed the two well and created a beautiful sound.
Overall Album Quality
As great as the production and lyricism are, the way everything came together is what sets this record apart from others. There are plenty of records that have great lyricism and production, but Red Pills and Black Sugar came together to create a cinematic experience. It’s more than the music with this record; it is like going to watch a film. The breaks in-between songs that have those short skits, the way the sound of one song flowed into the next and the way the sound evokes emotion from the listener are all ways Beleaf created that cinematic experience. It was beautiful to listen to and see this great story that Beleaf unfolded for the listener.
This style of music isn’t for everyone. If you’re the type of fan that likes to pick and choose songs from an album, then this record might not be for you because it’s meant to be listen to in it’s entirety. It unfolds like a story and a part of its charm and beauty is found in the care and detailed used in the story. There are individual tracks that create some outstanding and very memorable moments. The true beauty of Red Pills and Black Sugar is in its conceptual artistry, which is top-notch.
Beleaf has created a musical masterpiece on his first solo album. Fans will be satisfied and awestruck at times throughout this record, and by the end screaming for an encore.