N0va – Hour Glass – Album Review
It was about a year…maybe a year & a half back that I first got exposed to & impressed by the music of N0va through his Whip Sessions record – and it’s good to know this guy is still out there doing what he does and keeping the rhymes flowing strong, already back with a brand-new album. Over eleven new beats, this rap mogul continues to create innovative ideas within the hip-hop genre and demonstrates a range of perspectives, opinions and observations on Hour Glass.
I honestly cracked an immediate smile when “Wake Up” started. Not only is the music extremely creative in this tune, but N0va hits you with an absolutely solid hook that’s guaranteed to be repeated by homies worldwide. It’s a real song for the go-getter that exists in N0va…he knows you can’t wait for fortune to just come along by chance and that the hustle never stops…and I dig that. It’s delivered in the style I remember well enough from my first experience with N0va back in the day…he’s got a recognizable style in his writing and delivery…and like I said, it’s good to have him back. “Wake Up” was all the proof of that I required…solid first tune.
“Seconds” was a bit more mixed…everything works well enough, don’t get me wrong…but there’s still opportunities for N0va to continue to grow and evolve in his music and you can hear a few of those moments through the singing in the hook. Like I said, it works…but you can almost hear the apprehension or tension at the mic by comparison to the rap. There’s no doubt that the chorus hook is supposed to come out smoother – I get that; but by that same token, that chorus still needs to have the tone & power in the delivery to at least match what’s happening in the verse. N0va is about as close as close gets here to riding the edge of being on-key here…and I think just a bit more confidence in knowing he IS capable of hitting the notes he wants, BREATHE, and get in there and hit those moments with the same confidence as you hear in the rap and I think “Seconds” becomes a winning tune. The idea is there…but the hesitant tone in the chorus of “Seconds” holds this track back just slightly.
Plus you’ve gotta recognize when you hear those tougher spots to exist on a record and track #2 was one of them. “Wake Up” establishes the immediate impact on us…and “Broken Views” is 100% single-worthy…so to be stuck between’em like “Seconds” was is also a factor as it was a tough spot in the lineup to fill. “Broken Views” though…for real…this track is absolutely wicked. It’s got like a…like a…like a light-hearted version of ONYX…love the mix of the beat & low end in the music and the pauses & pivots in N0va as he shifts & flexes verbal skills on bar after bar of “Broken Views.” Hooks are strong, the lyrics overall are some of the best on the record and perfectly matched to the energy and pace of this cut…N0va hits his stride on Hour Glass quickly and the double-set of “Broken Views” and “I’m Over It” back-to-back go a long way to prove that.
No one would dispute that there is of course, still a lot of crime out there in today’s day & age. What you might not realize, is that N0va himself…is wanted for a HEINOUS crime. Listen to “I’m Over It” – it even STARTS with siren sounds in the background. You wanna know why he’s getting pulled over? It’s because he only created two-minutes and sixteen-seconds of one of the strongest tunes on the entire record. It IS a CRIME that there is not MORE of this song! Alright, alright…part of the magic of course in a short tune is making it worth repeating…and N0va’s definitely done that with a widely accessible rhyme, beat & hook combination on “I’m Over It” that’s one of the highlight moments on the record for sure. Genius mix, confident delivery and the verbal acrobatics you’ve come to rely on from N0va – ‘I’m’ not ‘Over It’ even in the slightest…this jam is PH-type PHAT. Love the sharp editing and ideas in this cut.
“Crystal” takes a quick turn into the low-end and a rip on Drake as the track begins – N0va’s right in the flow here and takes the mic for a confident turn once again throughout the bars in the verse. I feel the same way about the hook in “Crystal” as I do with “Seconds” – and I think the best piece of advice that I can give N0va is to really take a listen to the approach to the mic he’s got working for him when he raps and make sure to match that energy and strength in the chorus hooks he creates. Cause again…he’s like, riding right on the edge of the tone he wants…he’s careful not to fall off, but man, he’s close!
Always coming back strong, “Pendulum” is so damn good you’ll forget about anything else going on in your life and just focus on this incredibly sweet beat. THIS…this is the definition of innovation in the music – “Pendulum” sounds absolutely amazing with its percussion-led beat, the piano keys and horns drifting in through the mix…it’s extraordinary to listen to. Here in the background, N0va is jazzin’ it up with some solid vocal-work…right here I really appreciated the tone in his singing a lot more than I had earlier. Perhaps a little more free to roam and express himself with confidence in the background rather than the lead – what he’s doing to fill in the atmosphere of “Pendulum” really works strongly. And of course, as ever, he completely delivers another on-beat, complex & tricky rhyme that makes mince-meat out of the Webster’s dictionary as word after word comes at you. Each step in the rhymes have the utmost confidence and N0va conquers and stomps through “Pendulum,” swinging skills around in ways you’ll be sure to notice…the groove in “Pendulum” is impossible to ignore – this is captivating.
Name-checking a hero at the start of “Tell’Em (MC’s Act Like They Don’t Know REMIX)” by referencing one of the emcee’s that’s paved the way for N0va today, shouting out KRS-ONE – that old-school vibe reigns supreme on this track. Lyrically, N0va’s killin’ it again here…big fan of what he’s written into this rhyme and another flawless performance certainly proves time after time that this guy brings it to the bars and could grind out a cypher with the best of the best out there. He’s got a solid way of contrasting attitudes in his music…it’s never too serious, he never tells too many jokes…it’s all incredibly well balanced and this again, allows him to approach each step and movement in the music with confidence, power & force. His lyrical imagery is supremely clear though – you get a great dose of that on “Tell’Em (MC’s Act Like They Don’t Know REMIX)” and on the following cut “Never Too Late.” All of them really…don’t get me wrong – N0va never lets the quality of his rhymes drop; I just really like what I hear from him in the late stages of the record with the lighter-side of “Tell’Em (MC’s Act Like They Don’t Know REMIX)” contrasting with the darker, more melancholy melody of “Never Too Late.” Some of the singing parts of “Never Too Late” have great texture to them and really provide something unique to listen to that your ears will definitely notice…but there’s also a few questionable moments on this cut that you notice a bit more too because you’re paying close attention. It’s impossible to deny just how strong the rap IS from N0va though…take ANY cut I’ve questioned from “Seconds” to “Crystal” to “Never Too Late” and I’ll show you a track with bars in the verse that are SO SICK you’d forgive the guy for any weirdness you might hear in his tone occasionally. That’s not an opinion – that’s just a straight-up FACT.
Besides that…redemption always seems to be right around the corner. Every time I heard something I wasn’t sure of, N0va comes back with something noteworthy right afterwards like he did on “Mental Lapse.” Once again creating an incredibly cool beat to listen to and rhyme on – he’s set all the right pieces in place to make this cut another strong highlight on the record as N0va takes you through bar after bar with ease and professionalism…this guy is READY when it comes to hip-hop; someone get out your pen and sign this guy! Love the flow of “Mental Lapse” and the continuous stream of rap flowing fluidly throughout one of the record’s strongest cuts musically – he brought it to this one.
“Products” also has some incredible music to listen to and an innovative, creative & strong beat working in N0va’s favor. The verse…amazingly confident as always…the chorus hooks being sung are tougher ones to control, but he’s again found a way to straddle the edge and stay on-key; close as he may be, he always finds a way to get there. I think if anything, on this particular tune, “Products” could have benefitted from having that chorus turned-up to about as loud as you end up hearing it towards the final minute of the tune. The chorus hook itself is a strong one…but with it dialed-back a bit in the volume by comparison to the verse, it might not have the full-impact that the writing truly calls for. Easy fix…and once again, the idea is there…”Products” is a solid jam overall.
And…well…how do I put this…OMG? I think that probably describes how I felt listening to the lyrics of “Air Bubbles” – which…admittedly…are absolutely my favorite on the entire record. Some of the lines that N0va has come up with here are so extraordinary and STRONG that you’ll feel the impact of them for DAYS. The chorus hooks in this one came out PERFECT as well! On the final cut of this record when going for one final combination of the singing-hook chorus & verse-rhymes, N0va delivers the most fully realized version of this idea on the entire album right here at the end. “Air Bubbles” is a must-hear and a necessary inclusion on this record…he’s sounded confident before but this track houses the height of it for sure…absolutely killer cut. Around 1:40 when he lets it rip – amazing. Ideas in the background & chorus vocals – awesome. Beat – fuckin fantastic. Lyrics – as good as they get on this record.
“Air Bubbles” goes above and beyond to achieve and deliver a lasting impact and positive impression of this album overall. The beat is soooooooo good, the rap is sooooooooo strong that “Air Bubbles” is the kind of cut you want to end your record with…the kind that makes you instantly want to repeat the entire experience. Solid job N0va!
Find out more about N0va from his official Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ShawnN0va/
Join the thousands of bands & artists reviewed at sleepingbagstudios by clicking here!