Gentry Fox – Project Alpha – Album Review
Been more than a minute since we last had this homie on our pages – welcome BACK Gentry Fox – yo!
He’s got a brand-new record he’s callin’ Project Alpha…a lil’ somethin’ he’s described as “a 6-month journey into the mind of a tortured craftsman as he attempts to achieve his artistic vision while fighting off procrastination, heartbreak, depression, perfectionism, and other self-destructive patterns holding him back.” Fox has also enlisted the talents of several different producers to reach into his catalog of cuts that he had pumped out weekly between the end of 2018 to May of this year – and you’ll hear from the diversity of sound throughout Project Alpha that it was a really good move to surrender a lil’ bit of the ol’ control, let a few other captains steer the ship to victory & put their own spin on these songs from Gentry. It gives his catalog some additional GIRTH & versatility…plus it’s hella rewarding on the creative & artistic front to put your music out there into the world and see what comes back to ya.
Twenty tracks on Project Alpha…you best believe it dives deep based on what I’ve already quoted him on. With a dreamlike-beginning sequence & vocal-samples that perfectly set the stage for a brand-new day for this emcee as “Vita” starts his latest record. Fresh rhymes designed from 2019 on a beat from his 2012 era, Fox sounds in fine-form, bringing in the brightness & warm, inviting energy to the mic while the music continuously supplies the same all around him. Like many of the tracks on Project Alpha, “Vita” is a short cut at just over 2:20 in length, but just like you’ll experience here right from the drop, Gentry Fox brings purpose, theme, and conviction to his bars…unafraid to spit his truth, for better or for worse. I admired his ability to communicate when I reviewed his music back in 2014 – I still dig what he does to this very day right here – he’s courageous enough on the m-i-c to be completely real with y’all…and if that takes him internally, or draws tangible emotion from him, he’ll express it through his own perspective, unfiltered. It might be a fresh new year for Fox, but what you’ve loved about this emcee in his past material is still fully intact – he’s built upon the past – now he’s ready for the future and if “Vita” is any indication, things are lookin’ up for the man behind the mic & plenty bright ahead.
“Burglary” embraces the essence of Hip-Hop and delivers spot-on. Solid jazzy beat that hits the mark, fluid flow from Fox, and stocked FULL of rhymes that’ll make ya raise an eyebrow or two – “Burglary” is as entertaining & skilled as it is straight-up fun to listen to. Dude makes mincemeat out of the mic on this cut, slicing & dicing rhymes while wild’n’out on the mic – the beat itself is seriously SLICK, and Fox makes the most of this opportunity. Think of it this way…sometimes a song is about something specific, and some songs are specifically about multiple things – this is the latter; this is the art of the wordsmith on display as Fox weaves his words over this beat expertly pivoting, shifting, and transitioning with ease. You’ll hear what I’m talking about though – and it’s certainly no less of a valid way to come at a song; thematically in comparison to a lot of what Gentry writes, there’s no doubt that “Burglary” is much more scattered & all over the map – but believe me when I say it’s completely rad to follow his thought-process and how these rhymes connect from point-A to point-B. Incredible balance between a highly interesting vibe in the music and continuous lines that your ears are certain to hear for both style & skill.
Up to this point, the first two cuts were produced by Fox as well – it’s on the third that the rest of the guests start to take over, though he’ll reappear mid-record and at the end to bring it home as well. Mixla steps into the booth to take charge of production on “Madcap” – and together they get the electric-vibes running hot through the speakers with supercharged sound. Beat-wise, incredible – lyrically & vocally, Fox gives you a display of a huge range of capabilities, from shifting his pace verbally, to breaking up syllables & words to suit the needs of the metering, or the fact that he can rock a memorable hook, he proves he’s able to pull it all off with confidence, swagger, and style. “Madcap” definitely draws on shock-value in that same way “Burglary” does just beforehand with lyricism guaranteed to have you paying attention. He breaks my cardinal rule of no-fucking-counting-in-any-more-damn-songs-please, but so do another million artists each and every year; I’m forced to forgive when the music’s tight – & that’s definitely the case on “Madcap,” another solid entry on Project Alpha.
I haven’t counted exactly…and keep in mind, I’ve looped this record countless times…but I’m pretty sure I’ve been told to suck Fox’s dick about three or four times in these first four tracks. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I ain’t taking it personally – he’s telling YOU just as much as he’s telling me – the point is, there’s a lot of potential dicks being sucked here isn’t there? Fox – put your meat away bro, we get it, we get it. Slang your salami elsewhere homie – we’re all full-up for dicks here. LOL. I’ve got all the time in the world for lines like he puts onto “Classic” – that’s EXACTLY what this track is, “Classic” in every sense of the word when it comes to raw Hip-Hop. NOT to be confused with “Classy” – if that’s what you’re looking for, you wanna keep slidin’ your ass down to the next bench – you’ve gotten on the wrong bus. Gentry ain’t afraid to take you right into trash-town when it comes to what he’ll rap about & the details he’ll toss in at ya – as much as many of these words either a) might be true, or b) are designed to make you chuckle some – either way, you HAVE to listen to the way this guy strings together his words. Dude’s feelin’ the flow & lettin’ his wild-side out again on “Classic” – & damn homies, it’s sounds GOOD.
Yep…there it is again…I’ve just been told to suck some D, YET AGAIN GENTRY, at the beginning of “Menace,” this time produced by Eskupe & Anthro. Is there like, a sale on hot dogs goin’ on here on this record or am I just hungry for some coincidental reason? Project Alpha is SAVAGE yo! BIG beat, solid vocal samples, even if they are tellin’ us to drop to our knees yet again, and a song stocked with rhymes that are buried six-feet below the gutter – Gentry’s practically making a run at Mickey Avalon’s title of grimiest & grimmest rapper out there workin’ sleazy & slick rhymes today. He’s a “Menace” alright – Fox is all about the mischief & mayhem on the microphone in these beginning tracks on Project Alpha. Dude uses every beat & syllable to his advantage, punching & springing off the music and capitalizing on each bar as it comes at him, flexing the finesse of a smart emcee, no matter how insane any line may be.
There we go…”Dope” is an instant hit of that good-good for your speakers. Produced by Khronos, Fox spits in a swirl of dreamy sounds and smooth-AF bass-lines that slide right into your SOUL folks – “Dope” is exactly as advertised, it’s “Dope” from start to finish. If you listen closely to the words on this cut though, you’ll find it runs a whole ton deeper than the rest, and ultimately goes on to explain why you find so many dicks & funny lines throughout Fox’s material. As you might have suspected from reading the opening quote in this review that I pulled from his page directly – a lot of that humor is a coping mechanism…music would count as the same…you combine’em both, and you got free therapy for life if you want it – that’s the angle Gentry’s working & it’s workin’ for him – the results speak for themselves. He’s clearly been going through some shit according to what he’s said about this record – but the fact that he’s out there & makin’ it happen with a fresh attitude for a new year proves he’s gettin’ past it all. If that means making tracks like “Dope” to get it all out there into the open and achieve that next-level he’s looking for on a personal-level, hell, I’m all about it & sign me up – this is a seriously chilled groove.
“Tonight” would probably have that single potential were it not for the extremely explicit lyrics & graphic imagery Fox puts into the microphone here. I know he’s obviously not concerned and gives no fucks – but for the rest of you out there, let’s just say that what he’s rappin’ about probably takes him out of the running for a spot on mainstream radio…unless he goes with a remix that features a whole shitload of beeps that censor his words – and you KNOW he ain’t goin’ for some BS restraint like that! Gentry Fox is out to bring the party straight to the people on this track – “Tonight” isn’t the kind of cut you find on the radio perhaps, but so fucking what? This is the exact kind of cut you find setting off the joint on a Friday night in the underground, where the REAL shit’s happening anyway – you feel me? Crashing into place, the song begins with Fox revealing a wild tale of piecing together the night before with what little clues he’s been left with – and then of course, you got it, rinse, recycle, repeat from there – it’s time to get out there again “Tonight” and make it all happen once more. The kind of situation that would eventually maybe become “Tomorrow” if he ever started slowing down with the wild nights he’s having…fact is, it’s written in the present-tense, because this is how it IS for Mr. Fox. Definitely a vibe you can feel…no matter what you think of the lyrics, it’s got a killer beat produced by Guggenz that gets the most out of Fox, who brings straight fun & fire to the mic on “Tonight.”
“Aviation” marks the return of 3Point to produce this cut, who made an appearance already earlier-on with a supremely solid job on the sound of “Classic.” Love the mix of record scratches, ambient nature sounds, the jazzy music & beat…things come together real well for Fox on “Aviation” – and he takes this moment to bring a more of serious rhyme to a more serious beat. I’m gonna give him the points for the hooks on this track…I ain’t gonna lie to ya, listening to him perform those was like watching the final seconds of your favorite team try to hold off their opponents in the final seconds…you HOPE he’s gonna get there to the successful victory in tone he wants, but you’re not sure that he will entirely. Another two seconds of having to hold his tone…honestly hard to say how this would have gone for him – as it stands, I think he gets there…and I certainly think the idea itself hits a homerun. If for nothing else, “Aviation” serves Project Alpha strongly by presenting a non-dick option for you to chew on – enjoy! Chances are, you’ll find plenty to dig on here…the music is supremely badass & completely cool – and the verses from Fox are as tight as you’d expect…he always puts genuine passion into what he’s rappin.’
And that leads into “Flowers,” produced with a delicate & professional approach from Seneca B, keeping this track to mainly just the piano & beat throughout the cut, along with Fox on the mic & a few a samples along with him. Almost like what you might imagine the man Biz Markie would come up with in a slow-jam. Anyhow – the point I was originally making, you get to the heart of what defines a lot of who Gentry is, what he’s all about, and the mission he’s been on to become the emcee he is today. “Flowers” represents the blossoming of an artist evolving into his own – and while the beat & sound of this cut may be some of the most low-key, subtle, & minimalist you’ll hear on Project Alpha, you’ll also find that this particular cut makes some of the boldest statements on his behalf in the lineup. I should have mentioned the sax & bass too…OK – there’s a bit more going on in this cut than you might notice at first – I’m no exception to that myself – it’s structured so well that each element & transition happens so smoothly & flawlessly that you just go with it all, almost not even realizing just how rad this really is.
Dunno how I feel about “2K10” if I’m being honest…I’m no huge advocate of dating material to begin with, let alone shouting it out nearly ten years later…especially as the main hook? I do like that you get a nostalgic vibe that comes along through the music to support the concept – that I dig – but…hmm…yeah, I dunno…something about “2K10” that goes beyond its carbon-date that might have still stopped me from including this one I think. Bars & verses still come out strong…I like the music for the most part…the hooks of the chorus…I think Gentry’s just a bit wide of the mark to make them fully work or get to their max-potential. Objectively looking at this track in comparison to the rest you’ll find on Project Alpha…I think there’s an argument to be made that the record could have fully survived without “2K10” – but it’s not like you wouldn’t still find it entertaining enough to spin. It’s mainly by comparison to the strength of the surrounding material that you feel like “2K10” is missing a lil’ something…I’m still not even convinced I’m necessarily sure WHAT that would be, but something…
“Overdrive” produced by Beatmachinearon puts this record back on course quickly, bringing out one of the smoothest joints you’ll find on this new album from Gentry Fox. Smart combo of piano, guitar, bass, & beat…other elements too & of course an expert hand on the controls for the overall sound in the production of how “Overdrive” ends up – it all stacks up perfectly here, and you get a completely inspired performance from Fox as he puff-puff-passes his way to a smooth hit you’ll want more of here. Dude does extremely well when it comes to a beat with a bit of jazz in its soul – Beatmachinearon has got this sounding tight AF – you glide along with “Overdrive” – an interesting choice of title considering how relaxing & chill this whole cut is really. A title rarely defines what the music provides though – those are usually pretty extreme cases where you’ll find a 100% match, and it’s not a necessary thing anyway – if Fox wants to cruise along on “Overdrive,” you’ll find me happily ridin’ along with him. Not on his dick of course…in the seat beside him yo…with the music & middle-fingers turned up, you know it.
If I’m not mistaken, it’s Jim Carrey’s voice that you’ll hear in the sample starting out “Believe” – easily one of THE most massive highlights you’ll find on Project Alpha. Don’t get me wrong Fox, you’re good at what you do at all times brother, even when you’re waving your wang around in our faces – but it’s tracks that reach for so much more like we find he does on “Believe” that make US “Believe” in HIM. Masking pain & turmoil through humor can always produce great results…and hell, Gentry has proven that time & again already in the first half of this record – but heading into personal, introspective, and boldly emotional territory…being unafraid of what you’ll find & relate it all back to us…that’s where you’ll find an authentic connection to the material that can’t possibly be covered, recreated, or duplicated. What Fox has created on “Believe” is the kind of original track so strong that this will always be his own…even if a thousand artists gave this a shot with their own versions afterwards, you wouldn’t get to the heart of this song in the way that Gentry has – because this track really comes from within. Do I think he should have broken-up these serious/humorous tracks for cohesive purposes when it comes to the album overall? Hell no – not this time around. Read that quote again up top of this article from Gentry…the multiple dimensions of sound & manic way this record ranges through its emotions on display from happy to sad & everything in between…that IS the cohesion driving this record…its ultimate intentions & ambitions revealing the depths that the mind of Gentry Fox has been to & come back from. He’s being real AF on this cut…and it makes all the difference in the world to me as a listener – the job done by Kupla X j’san & Nymano in production knocked this subtle beat straight out of the park, 100%.
I feel pretty much the same about “Woke” produced by Arbour right afterwards – this is another solid cut from Fox’s new record that packs in a powerful dose of his serious-side as well. Verses are bang-on and verbal perfection…the hook at the very end…I’ll give him credit for the idea – execution-wise, probably just a bit short of the mark he’s seeking out for tone…but maybe not. It’s unique enough to have its own appeal, and he only pulls that card once at the very end of the track; it might be the case of one ingredient too many for some listeners, it might be the main draw for others – I could see that being a potentially polarizing moment that the people out there could end up debating back & forth about. There’s no doubt that the edge of these two more serious vibes back-to-back on Project Alpha goes to the end results on “Believe” – but let’s be clear, the melancholy vibes in the music of “Woke” are freakin’ amazing and Fox is making all kinds of slick moves that matter on the m-i-c…still a solid cut by any definition for sure, but I’d challenge that what you’ll find on “Believe” never wavers from what you want to hear in the focus lyrically. “Woke” might drift into a bit too much of a lighthearted design in the final moments with the vocal-hooks being sung right before the end…I was never fully convinced that this cut needed that entirely…hard to say, hard to say…I imagine we’ll all come to different conclusions.
As to whether or not “Blue” appears now in the record like you’ll find in the lineup at Soundcloud, or later on in Project Alpha’s set like you’ll find at Bandcamp, either way, still a decent cut for sure. Hooks-wise, don’t get me wrong…I ain’t sayin’ he shouldn’t handle’em himself – he does well…but I do think there’s still the most room for him to evolve there, and really go for it. He’s so confident in his ability to rap – and justifiably so – he should have every reason to believe he can sing it all out just as confidently, because I’ve heard the tones he bring, he does have the potential to make it happen. Most importantly, the ideas are sincerely there – I like what he’s come up with on “Blue” a lot when it comes to the hooks he’s created…maybe he could have brought it all up 10% more in a different performance, maybe not – bottom line is, the material is strong. Fox…like many skilled emcees out there…is simply a victim of himself in that sense – I mean, if you’re gonna design verses & bars that so consistently knock it out of the park, it’s only natural that the words are going to outshine what any potential hook could ever bring. So blame him for how I’m feelin’ about all this, not me…facts are facts homies – emcees like Gentry Fox put real WORK into their material from the words to the flow…in my opinion, it’s not only natural that in many instances we’d all flock to the verses instead of the chorus hooks – it’s also a genuine sign of respect yo! I’m interested in what this dude has to say…so for me, the spots with more words, the tracks like “Blue” or “Believe” or “Woke” where he’s being a bit more real with us…this is what works for me personally…because it genuinely sounds & feels like this is material that truly matters to him as well.
LOL. Alright – I’m loving “Roses” – let me tell ya why. You’re going to listen to this song the same exact way I did…even if you read all these spoilers I’ve got in this next paragraph for ya. You’re going to hear the smooth & sweet sound of the music as it begins…you’re going to hear the opening line…and for a BRIEF moment in time, you’re going to think something like, ‘awwwwwwww Gentry’s got a love song for us’ – and MAYBE, by the end of it all, there’s an argument still to be made that he does…kinda. In between the very beginning and the very end however, you’ll find Gentry turns up to eleven when it comes to how he’s feelin.’ If you were to ask me…I’d suspect that “Roses” is also based completely on real experience – a lot of the pain & suppressed rage you can feel come through this song reveals that the wounds of love are still all-too-fresh for Fox, even if the relationship is long over. Love messes with our minds for years after we drift apart or separate from someone…in some circumstances, thoughts like he details on “Roses” never go away at all. You can hear in his words & his tone of voice that he’s still struggling back & forth with a ton of these emotions, thoughts, and feelings…he’s heartbroken and reactionary here on “Roses” – but you gotta admire just how real & relatable he’s made this track become. Ending it with the ol’ “Happy Valentine’s Day” – that’s either the ultimate crack at sarcasm, or the harshest burn of the song in the final moments…only the two players involved will know for sure.
“Lovesick” produced by Hurlum takes him even further into the tales of love & loss he’s experienced through relationships…and he goes pretty damn old-school here. I actually really dig just how subtle the music is on this cut and it sounds stunning in its muted-vibes from beginning to end, turning up the sparkle & shine in the chorus with the piano & scratches comin’ on through to assist. Just the perfect doses of everything here…bass-lines are freakin’ GOLD…the vocal-samples at the beginning…I know I know them, but damned if I can place them this time around…but it all comes out super strong for as chill as it all really is. Gentry’s more paying tribute here, even if he’s detailing his own heartbreak in many ways…again, you can hear that struggle between the pain he’s in, and the fact that he’s still in love with the ones that got away…and the idea of how it can still exist in the ones to follow perhaps. Bottom line is, he’s been down, but he’s not out of the love-game just yet…there’s still more work to be done.
The level of honesty he taps into at times & directness to relate it all to us, is freakin’ magnificent. You’ll have heard or seen similar approaches to the poetic way he takes on “Wonder” produced by BVG from other artists/bands/writers out there for sure – BUT – the reason you’ll have run into something that’ll remind you of this at some point, is because this is a method that is tried, tested, and true. When something’s done right like this is, we always want more of that, wherever it can be found; it’s not like it’s any kind of carbon-copy of anything else, it’s just similar, that’s it, that’s all. And likely, what you DO find similar, you’ll find extremely comforting. Whether it’s the vibe in the music itself or the endless stream of consciousness questioning that Gentry Fox muses on…we’re all filled with questions, self-doubt, and internal examination that’s usually way too hard on ourselves – what he’s rapping about on “Wonder” goes beyond relatable – it’s straight up helpful, inspiring, and encouraging to hear someone put all these thoughts to wax…this is real. It’s humble, it’s raw, it’s a reflection of how many of us question life & love…how we all “Wonder” when what we’re currently feeling or thinking about is ever going to end, so that we can move on…how we “Wonder” if what we love, will come around again. It’s quite an endearing highlight on this album really…you’ll connect with “Wonder” on some level I’m sure.
If I’m being honest with the man, “Prodigy” probably would have spent a bit more time in the incubator – a bit of an uneven idea here…I think I’ve got my head around the concept, but even Fox knows he didn’t quite get this one to where it needs to go…like he’d have to be aware. While I admire the fearlessness he’s applied to putting it all out there and the fact that he’s always got something worthwhile to say in the verses he spits…and that there’s still elements of all that that I dig about “Prodigy” – if I’m looking at what serves a record best overall…I don’t think this cut’s gonna help the set-list at-large. You’ll hear from the robotic warning at the beginning that there’s a digital influence on this cut coming atcha…and I think that’s what Fox is going for with the mechanically-inclined delivery of the hooks in the chorus…but there’s no doubt he’s missing the mark where people are gonna keep listening. Happens sometimes…we all push our creativity & art in ways that are going to be accepted & ways that aren’t – the key is standing back from it all, recognizing what works, and more importantly, being ready to deal with what doesn’t. Like I said…Fox has been ‘on’ so many times that clearly no one out there would need to tell him when he’s ‘off’ – that’s always going to come down to his own objectivity; the inclusion of “Prodigy” is a bit of a puzzler on Project Alpha if I’m being real with the man.
Any time he’s even stumbled slightly on this album however, he’s come back with some of his best right after – and that’s certainly the case on “Dream,” which is quite likely one of my favorites from the entire Fox catalog. He’s gone from the dark and headed straight into the light here, delivering some of his most inspired verses that you’ll find on Project Alpha as he ponders stardom & success aloud. I dig that he looks at it from the perspective of not even fully knowing if he’s awake or if it’s all a “Dream” to begin with – that alone should tell ya that things are working out for the music, life, and career of Gentry Fox. He’s finding his way – and with the slick complexity & design of his rhymes on “Dream” coming out so fluidly & flawlessly, you not only feel every word of what he’s rapping so sincerely, but you end up rooting for this emcee big-time as a result of what he’s laying down on the m-i-c of this track in the late-stages of Project Alpha. Easily some of his best lines, more accessible vibes, and a cut that not only reveals what the “Dream” looks like to Gentry, but encourages & inspires YOU to go after your own as well. He’s leading by example here…and living proof that if you go after those dreams you have & give it everything you’ve got, no matter where you come from, what you’re going through, or where you’ve been – you can turn your whole life around & reach every “Dream” you ever have, no matter how wild.
“Epilogue” probably reveals the core of what this record has really been all about for Gentry Fox. He was looking to make a statement here as far as I can tell from everything I’ve heard…he wasn’t just looking to make a comeback here, he was looking to make a fresh start and separate the past from the present with a bold new outlook that’s ready to make the most of his potential. And he should be extremely proud of what he’s accomplished with this record – there have been countless highlights with & without dick involved along the journey of this record…most of which, if I’m being entirely honest, were probably on display with less dick involved, rather than more. Or to be clearer – what I think the people out there will find they connect with the most, are songs like “Wonder” or “Believe” or “Epilogue” at the end of this record…tunes where you wouldn’t doubt the authenticity of his feelings, thoughts, or emotions for a single solitary second. “Epilogue” is freakin’ amazing as far as my ears are concerned…not only does he slay these final bars with confidence and a true nod towards the future he’s heading towards, but the choice of sound & music is beyond exquisite. The choice to leave the final third or more as an instrumental, was equally brilliant…almost like we get a minute or two to consider all these words he’s just spit for us…and like he’s taking a moment for himself to do the same at the end.
He’s got lots of opportunities and possibilities for his future with the skillset he has…it’s great to have this emcee back in action and clearly heading down the path he was always meant to be on in 2019.
Find out more about Gentry Fox from his official page at: https://www.gentryfox.com
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