Genius Picaso – An Open Canvas

 Genius Picaso – An Open Canvas

Genius Picaso – An Open Canvas – Album Review + Bonus Singles Review

THIS is what I’m talking about!  Establishing immediate impact and proving his talent in the first bars that roll out instantly on “Open” – Genius Picasso clearly has a firm, confident grip on the mic and holds nothing back from the very moment his new record An Open Canvas begins.  Once the flow starts, the man hardly takes a breath as he pivots and shifts down the lane to victory from moment one.  You want a great first impression in the Hip-Hop/Rap game?  Try THIS.  “Open” starts the entire record with huge energy, vibrant hooks and seriously impressive flow from Genius Picaso.  Featuring an assist from the talented vocals of Nann to bring the chorus hooks out stunningly in the music – this is a seriously fantastic start to an all-new experience.

Really clever choices in the music and a mind-blowing mix on “Remember Where You Came From” – the only thing that makes it tough to review this one is choosing whether or not I’m more excited about the lively production and mix on the song or the performance itself – so I won’t.  This track is entirely split between the insightful recording and clarity in sound and the incredible flow that never quits – both of these elements bring so much to “Remember Where You Came From” it’s not even funny.  Absolutely impressed by this track and the way Genius has somehow raised-up the energy of the record even further from where it started this early on into the record.  I think the very final layer of vocals in the last like, ten-seconds, comes in a bit too loud by comparison…but I mean, if this is how it came out, that’s how it came out – I’ll take this song however I can get it.  Love the crisp snap to the beat in this track and the way the music subtly builds around it and Picaso holds the entire track together with a consistently innovative flow.  Dude hits the mark of the beat perfectly and springs off them powerfully in the flow.

Knowing full-well that the up-tempo energy can’t continue to skyrocket as it has so far…I was actually really excited to hear what Picaso might do when he backed off the throttle a little.  A little.  I’m not saying a LOT…because even within the confines of the completely awesome & chill sound of “I Learned” he’ll bust into one of the more impressive verses on the record before two-minutes are even up and he’ll do it at a blazing-speed that comes out HOT.  “I Learned” ends up roaming through quite a few different parts…I absolutely loved the beginning of the cut and found I instantly accepted the slower-tempo vibe and chill approach to this cut.  When the low-end kicks in before the first minute, it makes huge impact in the music…any time it showed up it sounded like the perfect addition to the track delivered at the exact right time.  There’s a lot of great ideas within this one track – I like the second-life that it takes on around the second-minute…there’s a third major piece that starts quickly after that as well…so you get what I mean, there’s a lot being offered to the ears in this one cut.  It’s like a mixtape in one song.  Sorry…scratch that.  It’s like a really, really well-made mixtape in one song.  That’s better.

There comes a point when you’re listening to something that you expect things to drop a bit somewhere along the lines…it’s a rare thing to get past three songs and still feel that the material is all equally strong, as diverse as it may be in whatever artist/band you’re listening to.  When you get to that fourth track you’re bound to have found a favorite already…but I’m telling ya…Picaso takes it even further, deeper and more emotionally-driven than he’s been before so far on “Yeah I Do.”  I got freakin’ CHILLS yo!  The moment this song started I knew I was going to be something spectacular – and it delivers big time with warm enveloping hooks that hold you tight in the grip of this admirable admission of love.  Love the way Picaso brings the low-end into his music…he’s got that down solid.  What I really liked about “Yeah I Do” was the honesty you can hear in this performance…I really think it’s magical.  Could it have been smoother somehow?  Maybe.  And I get that.  Some people would produce the living-daylights out of this one…and in doing so, they’d remove the real power it has in Genius’ performance.  Preserved like it is here is one of the best moves I’ve heard on the record so far…I think he really takes some chances here – and I think the results highlight the fact that he’s made every right choice in taking them.  Right around the three-minute mark before the chorus kicks-in again….MMMMMMMM MMMM!  That’s a completely awesome, chill moment right before that final hook comes back.

“Who Do We Think We Are” has Genius Picaso continuing to beat the odds and delivering another solid performance and well-written tune.  This track steps a bit outside of my own personal taste and more towards the modern-day R&B sound – but you can hear that this guy has a solid grip on melody and tone at his finest here.  Big, bold & confident notes, courageously going after complex and tough notes to hit…there’s auto-tune yes, but at the same time, there’s incredible skill and instincts in the approach & delivery you can hear.  Even though it’s got the modern-touch that’s more akin to something like Jason DeRulo…there’s a distinct old-school feel to the writing that resembles something more classic like earlier Michael Jackson.  It makes for quite an experience really…the music is solid, the pacing and precision is completely pro…”Who Do We Think We Are” was proof to me that Genius Picaso has large crossover appeal – I ended up loving this track as much as I did the first four, but it definitely caught me by surprise.  I really think that combination of old/new in the writing really deserves credit alongside the stellar performance on “Who Do We Think We Are.”

The skit at the beginning of “When It Rains It Pours” spells it all out as real as it gets.  It’s a performance for sure…and you can get that…but the SOUND of the way that Picaso says these words in this tale of heartbreak is audible perfection.  It’s a spoken-word piece essentially…gentle R&B comes drifting into the background…and again, the atmosphere and production here is top-freakin-notch – the surrounding gentleness and isolated, reflective attitude in the mood and tone is outstanding.  Genius explains how he got here to do what he does, he’ll clarify the reasons behind calling the record a ‘project,’ and then he gets right to the real of heartbreak in a seriously beautiful narrative.  I mean, it’s SAD…but the imagery is so vivid & clear and the emotion is so real that you will certainly feel this one & appreciate the beauty in the perspective Picaso has on an early love.  “When It Rains It Pours” is a completely captivating idea and executed flawlessly.

Maybe it was tough to leave that atmosphere…I think “Ain’t Nothing New” does the best it can to come after one of the most intense & amazing moments on the entire project.  Featuring JYTHEVI$IONARY, there’s definitely a lot of dynamics and massive elements in the music that make this one stand-out & pop…and it does ease you into them gently as “Ain’t Nothing New” begins…but I had a hard time finding a connection to this track after “When It Rains It Pours” flooded the project with raw sincerity & real emotion.  Just made it a bit tougher to head back into the good-time vibe of “Ain’t Nothing New” – I don’t fault the song…it’s strong enough, I just think it has the toughest act on the record to follow.

“Empire” put it back on track for me.  Another smart set of samples combined to create the beat – loved the breakdown mid-song and the way the cut itself is edited to break at points entirely and pause before ripping back into the beat.  JYTHEVI$IONARY stops by to lend his talent to this cut in a back-to-back appearance on the record and much like the first time we heard him, completely holds his own once again here.  For me the added seriousness of the sound and the approach to the mic is what makes “Empire” the standout track between the two tracks that feature JYTHEVI$IONARY – the flow is completely strong on both sides of the breakdown and the beat on this one contains all kinds of wildness in the mix that keeps it sharply entertaining.

It’s songs like “Summer In The Garden” that separate Genius Picaso from the rest.  I’m not even saying that it’s the ultimate standout on the record…in a lot of ways, its artistic-ambition would hold it back from being some people’s number-one choice – but it’s moments like this that make this a ‘project’ and not a typical record.  There’s dramatic and theatrical elements…there’s storyline…there’s heart & there’s passion on display…there’s socially-aware comments and personally reflective, relatable lyrics that hit home.  The first half of the song almost sounds like it could fit on a Naughty By Nature record from back in the day…there’s two main-parts to this song, but I loved the old-school approach to the beginning.  The lyrics are spit with aggression and passion…because they truly have something to say.  Really cool way that “Summer In The Garden” collapses in the middle and springs back up with a completely new sound that really works well in combination.  Excellent atmosphere in the second half of this tune…again, perfect example of what makes this record more of an art-piece or ‘project’ than a straightforward album of any kind.

The empowering lyrics that fuel the riotous energy of “We Dreaming” are completely solid.  It’s a much more militant and marching beat that drives the seriousness and energy of this track with wild-mob sounds filling the background.  Genius has made the occasional comment with his perspective on what’s happening out there in the world on songs throughout this project – but I believe this is the first one that never breaks from its theme of social justice, equality and the right for each person to have a genuine shot at their dreams becoming reality.  So in a sense…it’s a bit out of left-field to head into full-on seriousness…but I think the beat & flow will find people quickly turning this one up.  When genius hits the ‘Obama’ moment – you can hear the power in his voice echoing the power of the words.  “We Dreaming” is an important song for right here and right now…a song that the people truly need to hear and I completely respect how Genius has put his feelings into words here…he’s nailed it.  Lyrically for me it’s not even a contest…this is absolutely my favorite – but keep in mind I completely agree with his perspective and I’m certainly politically-minded all-day every-day – so for me, “We Dreaming” was right where I’m at.  I salute and have big-time respect for true artists like Genius Picaso that hold nothing back and speak their mind with the added weight of importance clinging to each and every word – I think artists like this are important…especially right now.

An Open Canvas ends with “Outro (I Promise)” which…well…which is really a heck of a lot more than any kind of simple exit.  Another different style beat, this time with a searing-guitar solo creating the main melody to the beat…it’s a wicked idea that works insanely well alongside with Genius bringing his A-game right to the very end of this record.  I mean, dude, the “Outro (I Promise)” is four-minutes long…it’s anything but an ‘Outro’ – this is a full-on last song and genuine moment in time.  The end of this record had my jaw dropped on the ground for this project’s sincerity and the final thoughts that Genius chooses to share with us all.  Seriously impressed with the effort and results of An Open Canvas from beginning to end.

So impressed that I continued on…I kept on listening to Genius Picasso and went back right to the beginning of what I could find posted up at Soundcloud from a year ago with the track “Direction” at the very beginning of the list.  I mean…if this had been my first experience in listening to Picaso way-back-when I’d be every bit as excited about this artist as I am today!  Beautifully sung…it’s a short track but MAN this thang hits the mark dead-on!  Truly stunning – Picaso was obviously putting out quality material right from the drop…I cannot express in words just what an incredibly bright future this artist has in front of him.  Multi-talented between his ability to rap, sing and write…he’s got levels of skills completely working in his favor and bound to guide him to the results he deserves.  That’s certainly my sincere hope…artist’s like this guy completely deserve to get to where they want to be.  With Genius’ widely-accessible tunes and professional approach, I can’t imagine this not catching on.

I continued into a list of singles with “Statute Of Limitation” written with JYTHEVI$IONARY.  This cut CUTS…its razor-sharp and seriously pointed with its opinion & perspective.  The looming presence of the music makes the atmosphere dangerous & menacing…and lyrically, these emcees match that energy through gritty & powerful imagery in the words and a bold aggression to the flow that sounds like a genuine life or death situation.  It’s gigantic in the low-end…a serious banger that’s edited and produced solidly and performed with audible authenticity.  I found I dig that more ‘serious’ energy in the vibe of a lot of Genius’ music…like in comparison to something like “Roll With A Winner.”  Different styles and approaches for sure…but sometimes that modern-style takes a bit of the sincerity out of the Genius Picaso signature-sound and a track like “Roll With A Winner” doesn’t come out sounding quite as strong by comparison to a lot of the tunes that take on more heavy-themes personally or socially.  I mean, I get it…we can’t be serious all the time…I’m just telling ya what I personally preferred.  Genius is still just as good as you’d expect him to be by now on this tune…I just think when he gets really-real, it comes across more powerfully…in my opinion.

So I found a way to bring it back with the bombastic energy of the supercharged “TRIBULATIONS” that features Genius Picaso, JYTHEVI$IONARY and Lucke Davis all firing-off on the bars with precision, passion and heart bringing their best to a wild beat that keeps the flows intense & the atmosphere tense at all times.  “TRIBULATIONS” has a masterful grip on the strengths of collaboration – these three completely rise to the occasion and hit this track as hard as they can on the mic, never letting each other down for a moment.  In a way these collaborations are a little bit more straightforward than what we find on An Open Canvas – but they certainly work…these guys are killin’ it on “TRIBULATIONS.”

The amount of hooks and different styles I’ve experienced in listening to Genius Picaso has been completely stunning.  “When The Smoke Clear” is about as gentle as we’ve heard him…and yet again, he finds hooks in the melody that can’t help but gather like, ALL of your attention to listen to them.  Proving he can be just as effect in his emotion & sincerity as he can be aggressive & intense – “When The Smoke Clear” is absolutely gorgeous and a genuine memorable moment in time.  Excellent singing from Genius, minimalistic beat and guitar/piano combination with some low-end added-in…it all comes together beautifully for Picaso on this one.

I honestly wasn’t expecting to find as much as I have or write as much as I have today – but here we are!  I checked out “Pain” as the final selection from the list at Soundcloud and realized I should probably cut myself off somewhere today, as much as I might like to talk about Genius all-day long…and probably every day for the next couple months straight…  “Pain” features Genius Picaso on a cut with 61 Jizzle and is produced by Picaso as well…it’s got that huge signature low-end…tone of the vocals was a bit brighter in the hook than the music was but the verses come through bold & solid…seemed like a solid place to end it all on the big and end the experience with a resonating impact.

Overall my honest assessment is that Genius Picaso has an overwhelming amount of talent – I’d be excited to hear anything this exceptional artist puts out…he’s truly innovative, highly inventive and delivers maximum entertainment to the ears with real lyrics for your brain to chew on.  Diverse, versatile and unafraid to challenge himself in any arena of music from the gentle & inviting to the aggressive & confrontational – Genius Picaso is definitely a genuinely strong candidate to lead the way into the future of music.

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