Da Butcher – Before Da Storm – Album Review
I think it says a lot about an artist when they put out a prequel months before like Da Butcher did with the Life Before Da Storm EP and then go on to serve-up the main course cohesively without much at all being the same. He didn’t repackage the EP disguised as a full-album…in fact, as far as I can tell it only looks as if one of the cuts from the EP made it to the final line-up of Before Da Storm. We had good things to say about what we had heard from Da Butcher then…and even before that; at this point, the expectations have risen for this emcee – but he delivers solidly and confidently as he continues to refine his style & sound and head into some real highlights of his music-career here on Before Da Storm.
I dig the narrative and sample that starts out this record and I think that it speaks to a lot of where Da Butcher’s mindset is at when it comes to his career on “Before Da Storm.” It sets a haunting and chilling atmosphere in place…but also one that seems inspired and aimed to be thought-provoking. Da Butcher keeps it clear on the microphone…smooth in his delivery and sharp through his lyrics as thunder echoes in behind him throughout the background. He’s played it perfectly and fit the right emotions to the syllables and placed them all perfectly in accordance to the dramatic way “Before Da Storm” unfolds.
Nearly half of the tracks on this record feature a guest-star at some point; and while some of this assistance fits the sound a little better than others do – the first guest is an immediate standout. Reb starts up the hooks on “Underground” with a quick rolling flow that captivates and sounds spectacular. Verbal gymnastics from Reb throughout the opening and Da Butcher follows it up with a solid verse of his own; while it might not move as quickly, the intensity of each and every word is felt throughout his moment in “Underground.” There’s a ton of social commentary happening here on this song and throughout the record…if it all goes according to the wisdom you’ll find laced throughout here on this mixtape, he might just find himself changing his name to Da Prophet by the end of this very year.
Using a quick “Skit” to keep the album cohesive and also allow it to slightly change its gears, “Champion” begins with a minimalist beat that completely works. Demonstrating that all you need to create rhythm is right there on the microphone, Da Butcher has written multiple-hooks to make one incredibly strong track on “Champion.” With a verse that keeps an old-school-cool to it, Da Butcher is nearly all alone on the mic with just the beat to back him up throughout most of the song and it completely works. I liked the piano addition to the chorus…not as sure I was digging the synth-line as much but it works too, I suppose I just kept trying to imagine what this one might have worked out like if it had stayed minimalist throughout the length of the track…like, just Da Butcher & Da Beat. Hard to say…I think this is a completely strong cut from the Before Da Storm record…I’d be interested in a couple versions, variations or directions this song could also take on through a remix. Point being – there’s enough awesome-stuff happening in “Champion” to want several helpings of it. Mmm Mmm good.
Starting any song off with a sample from Samuel L. Jackson is pretty much gonna land on my playlist…just saying. Da Butcher’s done that very thing on “Beautiful” and like Da Gentleman he seems to be when featuring a guest, he’s handed the microphone off to Jav Qcity for the opening verse. Another collaboration that completely works – Jav’s flow has a hypnotic-quality to it that fits perfectly along with the jazzy nature of the slow-beat music in behind him. But a real collaboration comes along when all the talent involved is hitting their sweet-spots collectively, just like Reb and Da Butcher pulled off in “Underground.” Much like that…maybe even a little more paired-up and matching the atmosphere on “Beautiful” – Jav Qcity delivers a perfect verse and Da Butcher follows it up with an equaled performance that brings out the very best in him. I like that he doesn’t just necessarily find the same style that he has…or even a similar tone…Da Butcher finds the right kind of talent to complement the music and the overall concept – and together they’ve executed brilliantly on “Beautiful.”
I struggled a little, not too much, but a little, with “Said Life.” I’m not entirely sure why. The featured guest Kimmy Kat is pretty solid…I think it might just be the part in the writing itself that comes out a little awkwardly. The result is a performance that sounds a little unsure of itself…and I think that contrast with the big-beat of “Said Life” does this track in just a little. “Said Life” is pumped-up musically in comparison to the rest you’ve heard so far…like you’d almost assume it’s the intended-single from the record…but even Da Butcher has his hits & misses within the verses on this cut. So…the sum-total of my thoughts on “Said Life” is that…it actually might have more potential than many of these songs on Before Da Storm, but I think it also needs a slight tune-up to bring a little more power to each verse and a smoothness to the sound/flow in the chorus.
Could just be me! I can fully admit that. But I think you’ll also hear on “Inturlude” that Kimmy Kat has much more to give. Da Butcher takes this track off to feature an upcoming star…someone I guarantee he’s seen & heard the potential from. I think that Kimmy Kat starts out “Inturlude” on a little bit of shaky ground, but I think the amount of confidence in her voice grows stronger with each passing bar. A lot of the song is in the deepest, lowest parts of her register…parts that would be tough for anyone to hit consistently…BUT…she pulls it off well on “Inturlude” and when she’s allowed herself to open-up and really let her voice out, she sounds brilliant. So…yeah…my conclusion on the subject of Kimmy Kat is that I liked her as more of a fit to “Inturlude” than I did on “Said Life” but I also think she let herself go a little bit more on the latter track. That passion…that ‘getting right into the vibe’ is clearly in her voice on “Inturlude” and I dig what I’m hearing from her there – plus she got a rad track to work with…definitely one of the more diverse and unique sounds on the entire record due to its guest star stepping into the spotlight for a moment in the middle of the mixtape.
But as all us white-guys like me learned from The Wire, “The king stay the king” and Da Butcher comes back for one of his own most captivating & entertaining performances on the record, “Calm.” He really does well without much ever happening in the music – I seem to like him best when he’s at his most minimal like he is on “Calm.” And LISTEN to the smooth approach he takes to the vocals and flow on the rap on this cut…you can tell he has ice running through his veins but his finger firmly on the trigger. “Calm” he may be – but weak he is most certainly not, and he proves that on this track verbally with a performance that slays with confidence in every syllable. After another short “Skit” he’ll continue that raging confidence and take it another level-up on “The Top.” The chorus is a bizarre one…its filled with dissonant-tones that make it sound a little strange, but the hook & pull of it is pretty undeniable. Did he write a verse that outshines the chorus ten-to-one? Probably. “The Top” is a highlight-display of Da Butcher’s skills and flow at the top of his game throughout the verse…it’d be tough to bring it up from there. While I’m not so sure that the chorus achieves that impossible task…I think he’s played it smart by sending it in a different direction with an off-kilter but memorable hook.
And you know what…I was wrong! Earlier on, I mentioned that there was one cut that made it to the record from the Life Before Da Storm EP…but this is in fact, the sequel. “Get By” gets another-life on this new version, “Get By 2,” still featuring Gada, still a tight song. Struck me as different the moment that I began to hear it…I had to check right away to see if it was in fact the same song, which is when I finally noticed the ‘2’ – up til that point I was chalking it up to the fact that I’m running music through these earholes of mine nearly sixteen-twenty hours each and every day. Both emcees deliver tightly on “Get By 2” – it’s a much more dank, down-low club-style beat…it moves and flows incredibly well with massive low-end mixed in perfectly. The beat itself is an old-school one that harkens back to the gangsta-rap early days of Dre & Snoop…much could be said the same of the attitude these guys take on “Get By 2.”
Da Butcher takes you to church on the next track, “All Night,” with an organ-infused beat and insightful wisdom. While I was just thinking to myself that he’s got the tone to the chorus-hook in-line, but that it sounded so focused that it needed a bit more life and energy to it…I found myself in the middle of a verse that reminded me just how many things Da Butcher is actually responsible. He ‘makes rap music but that doesn’t mean that all he does is rap’ – and that’s completely true. This is a hard-working emcee that’s involved in all aspects of the music from the beats to the production and of course the quality in the finalized product…it’s a lot of hats to wear. So truly…I’d probably rather hear the right tones in a hook like you’ll find on “All Night” than perhaps the off-notes of the memorable hook in “The Top” – I’d trade that for the decrease in energy I suppose. In any event…I’m splitting hairs at this point and you’re just enabling me by reading these words…”All Night” is a solid tune and it’s all Da Butcher. Any improvements that could be made would be minimal at best…he’s done an impressive job on this cut.
And wouldn’t you know it…I feel like I’m completely RIGHT about how I felt about Kimmy Kat! She DID in fact have a lot more to give – and she gives it fully on “Believe.” I admire artists like Da Butcher that have a true eye for talent that just needs a little bit of coaching to bring out how special it can be. I have the feeling that Kimmy Kat has come out of this experience with more confidence and true confirmation of her talent than she’s ever had before…and I think on “Believe” she earns the accolades. The hook sounds absolutely beautiful, powerful…well-delivered and well-written…she fits this extraordinarily well. “Believe” is also a highlight for Da Butcher lyrically…he gets fairly personal on this final track before the album’s “Outro.” I like the authenticity that you always hear in Da Butcher’s voice – his energy, tone and mood all come out strongly each time on every track, giving them all their own personality, atmosphere and uniqueness.
And overall…I’d say he’s done it again…perhaps more convincingly than I’ve heard him before. No – I know it is…and I think I’m bold enough to declare it: this is definitely Da Butcher’s most solid-album to-date, featuring some of the best talent he’s chosen to present and assist him on these songs & he remains completely reliable when he’s on his own. The atmospheres are thick, real and raw – the authentic-passion in the delivery of the words is always there representing a massive presence…and he goes his own way the entire time, which I also like. There might be artists that do similar things…but I think Da Butcher continually reaches for new depths in atmosphere in the minimalist-style and I think he’s done himself proud here on Before Da Storm – solid record, all the way through.
Find out more about Da Butcher at his official Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/dacleaver631
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