Jacob Didas – Lucid – Mixtape Review
If you checked out the last episode of the SBS Podcast, you’ve already had a chance to check out some of the music from Jacob Didas…and no doubt, since then, anxiously awaiting some more! We played a cut called “Deluded” from his Lucid album to warm you up pre-review here at sleepingbagstudios…but it’s high-time we unleashed this beast in-full.
What I feel like I appreciate more in mixtape artists these days is created by those that really reach for sounds that might not be the most typically associated with Hip-Hop…I’m a big fan of innovative artists like Jacob Didas who not only possess a ton of skill but also a ton of clever instincts that make those skills stand-out within the music. A lot of what he’s done through Lucid has the beats & music cranking out massive amounts of sound and energy…so full sometimes that most emcees out there would more than likely be intimidated or feel like all the space they’re looking for doesn’t even exist; but therein lies part of the magic in the music of Jacob Didas…he knows there’s always a way in, always space, always room to move, hit them bars & do his thang.
“Drumroll” starts the experience out with a solid example of what I mean. Beats & electronic-sounds fly around Didas like he’s the commander at the center of the storm…”Drumroll” is anything but a typical start to a record you’ve heard. You could argue that it’s loosely structured in a sense – but I’d counter that quickly with a question like ‘well, how come Didas always manages to stay connected to the metering, flow & the beat so consistently?’ The music of “Drumroll” in my opinion, was every bit as much as genius as the rap & lyrics themselves…and mix-wise it takes an equal share of this combined talent on display; not only does Jacob start out the record immediately impressive with sick skills in the verbal-spotlight for all to hear, but the music that he’s created provides him with some seriously unique platforms to express himself through. Listen to the way that “Manic” starts and you’ll get a further example of what I mean as it starts out with string sounds before heading into a wild electro-beat filled with sound & intensity. Is “Manic” a bit much for most people? Perhaps…but so is the mood itself – and when you examine it from that aspect, you get what Didas is going for in the theme of this song through the title and pace of the music; combined with the lyricism, rap & flow hitting even more intensity & speed on “Manic” than we were introduced to on “Drumroll.” He’s played many of these tracks exactly right in my opinion…listen to the way he balances out the experience with a long instrumental section riding out the end of this track in an exceptionally stunning way – Didas has made the music a large part of what makes this record work so well. The standard for creativity is set right away on Lucid…and Jacob keeps his foot firmly on the pedal throughout its entire length driving the intensity forward at full-speed – as a result, the record proves to be extremely entertaining at its every twist & turn.
Still standing by “Deluded” as a solid track to have played on our podcast to hook you in; the gigantic beat and atmosphere of this song spikes to a fever-pitch & full-on march on the inside of the first minute – but then the real magic steps in. The beat itself gets smoother, more easily accessible to the ear and spreads out the sound in a sincere way that allows Didas to get his points & lyrics across. Some people out there will want the vocals on this record to come up just a bit…and I wouldn’t blame them for that as I don’t quite catch every word myself through the thick of the music – BUT…you have to keep in mind just how HUGE these songs come out sounding as a result of his choice to keep his vocals more on the inside of the sound & music we hear. So there’s a bit of a trade-off that occurs…one I’ve been cool with him making throughout my listening to this record over the past couple weeks because everything that IS offered to our ears is something I completely felt like I wanted to hear. The combination of beat-samples, background vocals, guitars, pianos all combine to make the intensity of “Deluded” work insanely well…and as it heads into a minute on-forward, you can hear Didas right in the grip of the rhythm and the moment. The breakdowns within the structure of “Deluded” make this one of the most dynamic cuts on the record and a defining highlight on Lucid early on.
I’ll say this…”Deluded” was so strong & serious that the playful synth-led beat of “Wagwan” took more time to win me over as a result of having such a tough act to follow. The FACTS however, speak for themselves – you can’t even argue that rap-wise, “Wagwan” isn’t a massive highlight for Jacob’s verbal skills because he leaves you SPEECHLESS with a wicked performance that can’t be ignored. Rapping at an extreme pace – we’ve already heard him rip it up plenty on the first songs from Lucid, yet somehow he finds another otherworldly gear to switch into and often follows the arpeggio of the music beat-for-beat with his words impressively. Smartly structured, he keeps it smooth in verses before launching at any moment into a verbal-sprint that will straight-up leave you behind if you’re not ready to keep up! Check out that music again though…you hear what I’ve been saying? Dude’s an innovative guy…these beats he’s got assembled here work with vibrant versatility in audible abundance.
What you will catch through the lyrics you hear reflect on a ton of personal observations and Didas’ own relationship with the world at-large. “Flight” is a great example of a cut on Lucid that allows you to hear a little bit more of what he’s saying on most; the spread-out & jazzy nature of the music gives him a bit more space in the mix to be heard, especially towards the beginning of the track and in the breakdowns. Right around the 2:30 mark you get another highlight moment for Didas on the mic really feeling the gravity of the moment and ready to make an impression on your ears through the pull of the rhythm in his words. “Flight” in some ways felt a little piecemeal…like really good ideas that might not necessarily have existed together at the beginning of its creation and rather formed over time by placing unique and interesting hooks one after the other. I felt like while it was structured in ways that have real definition to each separate part, the entire construction’s resulting cohesiveness ended up making “Flight” sound like one of the more purely artistic pursuits on the record. Didas has been constantly trying out new ideas and approaches throughout this entire mixtape and “Flight” is certainly no exception to that rule.
Didas knows his way around a piano-led melody & beat combination, no doubt about that. Again impressively letting a lot of the emotion in the music bleed-out throughout the experience, it’s nearly a full-minute in before you hear him on the mic on “Phantom.” Dipping into EDM/IDM sounds throughout this cut, the twists & turns in this one are incredibly well-defined and bolder than most you’ll hear on a record of any kind from part-to-part as it switches between dreamier sounds from the piano, big beats and rhythm before switching into a more glitch-filled sonic environment. “Phantom” was a highly interesting track to me and followed a bit of that same feeling I had with “Flight” in the assembly of its musical-DNA feeling a lot like individual parts sewn cleverly together. To me…it’s hard to argue that what we hear isn’t accessible, because each and every moment in the music and performance certainly IS – but as an idea overall, I can certainly appreciate that it would be tougher for the average ear to follow along with Jacob’s ambitions, intentions, twists and transitions on songs like “Flight” and “Phantom.” He clearly made that conscious choice to go in these different directions however…and I think you gotta respect choices like that as an artist. Sometimes we’ll lose people along the way in pursuit of our art…that’s just how it goes…but if you stay true to who you are, what you want to achieve and really express yourself as an artist with a point of view & genuine perspective…believe me, there are more than enough people that will connect to the sincerity in the sounds you create. That’s where I think Didas separates himself from the rest…because these songs he writes have that uniqueness, perspective and more than enough innovation in the music to keep us entertained…he’s been taking bold chances throughout the record and I think the effort he’s put in has really paid off with an enormously satisfying listening experience.
I mean…if you NEED more proof than I’ve already offered in my words, just listen to “Homebound” – you’ll KNOW that Jacob could also keep it smooth like this if he WANTED to – but there’s much more to him as an artist. I’m not going to lie though, “Homebound” is certainly one of my favorites from the record…it’s got such an inspirational and uplifting energy in the vibe of the music that this one really connected with me. Loved the trumpet sounds layered into the swell of the low-end atmosphere & electro-elements surrounding them…but what I loved more than anything else was just how much Didas rose to this particular occasion to remind us his rhymes can exist & thrive in any environment. “Homebound” might be a slower, more sincere tune in some respects – but the reality is that every move he’s made in the writing here is single-worthy and guaranteed to connect with listeners out there. The tones in his vocals take his performance out of the ordinary and into the extraordinary on “Homebound” – in my opinion you can hear more of ‘him’ on “Homebound” than on any other track on the record…it sounds & feels more personalized in the writing, yet accessible to all through the way he’s got the music working with his words. Really unique stuff…even with a more straightforward set of ideas for the composition and hooks, Jacob Didas finds exceptionally impressive ways to make every moment worth your time and attention through his committed & confident performances. Proving he could easily write himself into the mainstream with standout content that hits the mark professionally & personally, “Homebound” is a track you’re sure to love as much as I did…that’s a universally accessible track he’s put together right there is what that is.
Fully embracing the art of the mixtape and the freedom of expression that comes along with it, Lucid plays on to reveal an instrumental gem towards the end of the record with “Aisle (Interlude).” Taking a moment to breathe a little before he comes back ferociously on “Octane” – “Aisle (Interlude)” is an audible smorgasbord of sweetness and melody. As much as I appreciate Didas on the mic, I also appreciate the break he’s taken here to let the music speak for him; it’s been an integral part of this record all along the journey and I think taking a moment here to reflect on that served this entire album really well. It provides a solid separation before the final chapter to come and the texture & beauty of the sweetened sound of “Aisle (Interlude)” was beautifully captivating…I was like, locked into place while I’d listen to this song…my ears wanted to catch every moment of the emotion inside of the music.
As drum beats thicken, intensify and evolve throughout the beginning of “Octane,” Didas is back on the mic and ready to deliver. You can hear the added seriousness in the approach on “Octane” – a song that even refers to the amount of speed and ammunition that he brings to the rap-game. Threaded with an interesting synth-line that provides just enough melody to spring-off from verbally, Jacob makes this inventive track work well by mainly pushing off of the changes in tones and insanity from the increasing intensity of the beat enveloping him. Despite everything continuously firing-off around you, the ingredients to “Octane” are actually more minimalist in style and composition than most on the mixtape – and it’s left up to Didas to deliver from the mic to keep our ears entertained, which he most definitely does. Rising to the occasion strongly once again, he lets the words rip furiously throughout this cut with deadly precision and commitment before heading into the final slow-jam/song on the record with “Vision.”
Now…”Vision” tends to change almost EVERYTHING I’ve said so far and felt about the music and way he’s constructed his songs in the mix – nothing quite like flipping the script at the end of the record right? The beginning verse and through much of “Vision” there’s no doubt that if my ears can hear his words more clearly than yours will too…and as much as I’ve enjoyed the music being up as much as the vocals in many of the situations and songs we’ve heard him in – hearing Jacob as clearly as we do at the beginning of “Vision” is audibly rewarding through its clarity. He will eventually head back into the swirl of the electro-vibe in the music and find himself inside of the mix more as we’ve known him to be as the song continues on…which works strongly for “Vision” and its evolution in the writing; but with that being said I’d also certainly encourage Didas to explore MORE moments like the clarity we get in the beginning of this final tune. He’s proven with every line & word that’s broken through the mix to the top of what we hear that WHAT we hear from him is certainly worth our time to listen to…and I think moments like “Vision” and “Homebound” have afforded him that ability to take that talent for expression he has even further with more clarity in the sound overall.
Just a recommendation, nothing more. I’m certainly not claiming to know any better than an artist who has completely entertained me throughout the ten tracks that lined his record! I think Didas has done exceptionally well with bringing his ideas to life on Lucid and really set a unique standard and path for his music to travel in the future. Absolutely an artist with skill, insight & immense ability – he’s going to get even more creative, wild and innovative as he carries on I’m sure, but right now he’s already leading the way with memorable cuts that make a serious impact – definitely an artist to keep an eye/ear on.
Find out more about Jacob Didas at Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JacobDidasMusic/
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