Jody Loud – American Robot

 Jody Loud – American Robot

Jody Loud – American Robot – Album Review

You can pick apart the hustler, but the hustle remains.”  #Truth

It has been a MINUTE homies…last time we had Jody Loud on these pages of ours was way back in the day, in the summer of 2015!  Always awesome to have an artist back in action like they’re meant to be.  I reviewed his record Letters From Rehab when I had the opportunity to check this dude’s music out for the first time, and as you’d assume & as the title certainly implies, he wasn’t the type to hold anything back.  Of course that was long ago now, as I’ve already mentioned – but as you’ll see from all the explicit tags that come with his latest cuts on his new album American Robot, well…I suppose some things never change, you dig?  With high emphasis on his gift for lyricism and a range of styles that’ll take this rapper throughout an entire array of Hip-Hop vibes that are as thought-provoking as they are thoughtful, and as entertaining as they are personal – Jody Loud’s put a lot into the words on this record that’ll definitely get the wheels turning, move your head & your heart a lil’ in the process, and even provide a chuckle or two along the way.  Dude’s got perspective & he keeps it real – y’all know I’ve always got time for that; perhaps we share that in common…maybe that’s what’s brought him to us (again!) – the honesty here.

And it’s in pointing that out that I’ll tell ya direct, American Robot becomes quite the experience.  On a lyrical level, you’ll find Loud has almost no issues ever…but when it comes to the overall combination of ideas, style, and sound…we’re looking at a perplexing set of songs compiled together on this record.  At some points, the professionalism and focus of Loud is undeniable – and at others, it’s more questionable – he’s got cuts on this record that show he’s ahead of the game in many ways, and still looking to catch up in a few others.  All that being said, when it comes to albums that intentionally place more emphasis on lyrics, or any one thing really as opposed to the whole, where all hands on deck adjusting all the details are focused sharply on all aspects of everything that’s happening in every tune from start to finish, you’re kinda bound for a bit of unevenness in the end results.  Having known this to be common to singer/songwriters out there in just about every genre I can think of under the sun, I was expecting these factors to play a role in listening to American Robot…and right from the drop, “Icarus” will reveal a few of Loud’s strengths, in addition to spots where he’s still got room to expand & evolve later on down the road.  The trouble in the design of this first cut catches up to Jody immediately, though not everyone out there is gonna realize that, nor is it generally going to be a factor for everyone out there.  Now…this might be a comment on credits, or it might be a comment on decision making – and I’m honestly not sure which it is, but what I can tell you with confidence is this:  when you’re the star of the show, BE that.  Most importantly, remember that if you’re not solely focused on that very thing when you’ve got other voices in the mix along with ya, that you’ve giving someone else the opportunity to outshine ya, every time.  In the case of “Icarus” here, what’s burning Jody isn’t the fact that he’s flying too close to the sun, it’s the fact that he’s got some other dude hittin’ bars before we even hear Loud for the first time – and whomever that is, is makin’ mincemeat out of them…raising the standards supremely high before Jody’s even had a chance to spit a single syllable.  Like I said, some of you out there won’t know that on a first tour through American Robot until you familiarize yourself with his voice & what he does – but even on those subsequent spins where you do know that, you start to recognize there’s a massive gap between what you hear in the skills of those first bars verses the next ones to follow – and that’s a dangerous way to set yourself for the people listening out there y’all.  As far as the lyricism is concerned, like I said, aces there – you’ll find Loud comes in swinging quick with social commentary that’s more than valid, taking on the system, police, the economy, social-media & more as he starts up his record, and makes plenty of insightful points along the way…it ain’t that Jody doesn’t come in strong you see, it’s the fact that he doesn’t come in quite as beefed-up and in-charge as that first verse comes out, and that’s a factor here, instantly.  Think of it like apples and oranges if you like – only in this example, they’re the same; when you’re selling them to the people out there, there’s a reason all the shiny & new ones are on the top – if you see those, you’re likely to buy, and then either just keep on taking the more bruised ones below, or at the very least, be willing to check out what’s going on with the expectations that you’ll find more just like what you see.  That’s the danger here.  If you were to reverse that scenario, where you have that noticeable scratch on the very first apple or orange we see on the way into the store, chances are most of us keep on cruising our way through the produce aisle that day, you feel me?  First impressions are so important…all I’m saying is Loud’s definitely gotta consider that factor.

Are my thoughts introspective, or reflective of you?”  To a degree, many of the same issues potentially reveal themselves on “Genius” to follow, only the overall idea comes out much stronger here at the end of it all.  Similarly to how “Icarus” began, we get someone else in front of Loud in the queue of this lineup, and someone coming after him as well in this mic trade-off.  Once again, you’ll notice that’s it’s not necessarily a case all the time of Loud not hitting his own mark when it comes to precision – for the most part, he’s more than sharp enough…but it’s tough to say whether or not his own laidback style & approach to the mic is going to stand out enough in comparison to the character & charisma in the vocals around him.  Right now, he’s kind of his own worst enemy here – I feel like he’s introducing us to some decent ideas and solid vibes – but I also feel like at the start of this record, none of us would know if this is Loud’s record or someone else’s, you feel me?  Ain’t nothing wrong with a laidback style until you put it up directly against the juice & the energy on either side of ya – once you go that route, you’re asking for the bookends to stand out more than the book itself and all the chapters in between, you dig?  The focus you know he’s capable of starts to blur around spots like the 1:15 mark – that’s where Jody’s gotta be supremely objective and know that he’s got more in the tank – not just more in the tank, but more that he’s verifiably proven already at this point in the record early on that he can hit right on the money, mind you – so to hear his tone in the melody dip at this point & deviate from the sweetness he’s searching for…these are the kind of decisions in leaving that there that you gotta deal with through criticism at the end, and that could have been so easily smoothed out & resolved long before it got here, because HE knows exactly what I’m talking about.  It instantly has us questioning the timeline of it all – if Loud’s spent nearly four years outta the game since his last released single online – then what was the rush to get American Robot out?  This is the kind of stuff that concerns me, I ain’t gonna lie…and like I said, it’s purely because I know he can hear it too; Loud will remember the 5% he could have nailed down tighter in a track like “Genius” so much more than the vast majority of the 95% where he’s rollin’ along in the flow without issue…and ultimately, that should concern him just as much as me at the very least.  He’s proven he’s capable, he can hit melody when he wants to – now it’s about objectivity and being real…he knows what he can accomplish – accountability to that is 100% key in creating the consistency he wants.  I do really like what he’s got to say on “Genius” for the record…I think he’s got a lot of valid commentary on how we react & crave & desire attention on social-media and the internet & how he’s got that in contrast with what we experience in real life outside of our computers & phones.  Listening to Loud hitting his stride just prior to that 1:15 mark over the bars before is exactly where you wanna hear the guy at – he’s making the magic happen there with the precision, tone, skill, and melody we know he’s capable of.

“Fake” is a good example of why it’s important to be real.  Had I not pointed out everything I have already in Loud’s material, I might not have any credit with y’all or any weight to these words I’m typing out for ya…and when I tell ya that there’s more balance in this third cut than the previous two, now you can at least know I’m givin’ ya the 100.  I’m not gonna say he’s quite hitting the pinnacle here yet, but there’s noticeable improvement when it comes to his tone…if anything, you might question the comfort of the main star of the show more this time around.  For one, once again, Jody’s relegated himself to a much more secondary role…if you were counting the seconds & bars you find him on as opposed to how much of the rest of the song there IS…he’s a fraction of what you’ll hear.  A comment that I often end up making when it comes to singer/songwriters/rappers out there is that difference between having it all look right on paper and then having it practiced so hard that it’s like it’s all coming out off the top of your dome when you go to record it.  You can literally hear the poetic design of the words Loud has written on “Fake” and how that works syllable for syllable, but you can also hear him audibly concentrating more on hitting the metering of that flow as well…which in itself, kind of creates this push/pull energy to what he’s doing; our ears like what he has to say, but they’re also always wondering what’s causing that slight hesitation or that feeling like he’s ready to own each & every one of his words.  That conviction…it’s important – we gotta know as listeners that you completely believe in what you’re saying, what you’re singing, what you’re spitting – commitment & performance is key to not upending the suspension of disbelief that comes along with listening to music.  Lyrically, he’s laid out some exceptional stuff, from sharp commentary targeted directly at the industry and its many flaws, to more personalized insight on how economics & finances affect us all in some way, shape or form.  An anthem for all those of you out there stuck in the grind with your head down doin’ the work – Loud’s got no issues getting his points across on any cut throughout American Robot and that’s a huge positive overall.

He IS finding really excellent voices to support him on these tracks, and that’s definitely something to be considered as well – it is a large part of what keeps this record well worth your time in spinning.  “Hustle Stat” gets a shout-out to Dikembe Mutombo in there as well, so I mean, obviously bonus points for that.  There’s a lot of style in this cut & a lot of appealing sound to the vibe overall – swagger’s on-high here and the chilled-out atmosphere hits the mark…ears will definitely be enticed into checking this cut out quickly and stick with it no prob.  There are more demands being made on Loud here in terms of his own speed and getting these words out on time, which you’ll find he does – but not necessarily without having to really hustle himself.  Best way I can put it is that you’ll hear the speed required to get through the opening bars is even more challenging, but you don’t hear that wear & tear…whereas when Loud hits his bars, you’re really right there on the edge of your seat listening hoping he’s gonna keep up to his own thoughts coming through the mic.  I think he did a pretty good job of finding those spots to take a quick break to catch some oxygen, but there’s no doubt you can still hear the man movin’ as fast as he can to not stumble over these words, which certainly ain’t easy.  Part of that mind you, with its lyricism often takin’ shots at Mumble-Rap in the process, might be very well intentional by design to support the concept – nothing’s getting mumbled here, but it’s realllllllll close to running together at points with the amount of speed needed to spit these words with some separation.  All-in-all though, while it might sound like I’m complaining, I’m really not – Jody’s directly looking for those spots where improvement & evolution can occur in the future of the music he makes, and I’m always willing to supply; I don’t ever claim to be right, I just lay out what these ears of mine hear, for better or worse.  Ultimately, I felt like “Hustle Stat” came out with a memorable set of hooks, gives ya some of the history on what Jody’s been through to become the man he is today, the roots of his Hip-Hop influences, and the place he’s trying to take his music in the future…make no mistake, he’s got plenty to contribute & he holds his own here.

Same with “Good Times” to follow more or less, great hooks, solid array of personalities on the mic from start to finish, especially the highlight set of verses & bars that occur right after the switch between leads.  One of the more relatable cuts on the record though, I think the people out there will definitely get right into this whole concept and find their own way into it that echoes many things they’ve experienced in their own lives.  From seeking validation from other people, to seeking validation from ourselves, to insightful lines that remind us to appreciate the moments we’re in before we’re right in the next ones of the future to follow, “Good Times” has got a ton of cleverness on display through its lyricism that listeners will connect with, because it’s plenty real & plenty relevant.  Hooks-wise, “Good Times” delivers on one of the most undeniably memorable parts you’ll find on any track – fantastic personality & spark to this spot, and the uniqueness in the way the words flow is aces all-around.  Drawing on nostalgia & contrasting emotions, Jody & his crew shift pretty seamlessly through the beats & bars of “Good Times” and essentially deliver on exactly what the title implies, despite the seriousness that gets flexed along the way – lots to be said that’s important, but vibes that come across uplifting & inspiring overall, which is really the sentimental note you’ll find they all choose to end this cut on.  Do you want Jody to cheer up just a LIL’ on a track called “Good Times?”  That might be something worth pointing out, maybe, maybe not…it’s likely something that the people are gonna notice, but hey, the man’s got a lot on his mind, and at the end of the day, American Robot is a vehicle for those thoughts and what he wants to communicate.  Even the most upbeat vibes can still induce more serious moments & introspective thoughts in all of us; no reason why that shouldn’t be the same for Jody Loud, which it is.  If you’ve ever had that moment though, where one second you’re thinking about the “Good Times” and the next you’re mired in your own head trying to remember how you got here from there somehow, chances are you’ll feel like this cut was written for you directly…it’s a personal cut, but highly relatable.

In terms of what’s happening out there in the music-scene right now, I’d probably be taking a good look at “Overthinking” as a single to entice the people in.  It’s as on-point as you’ll find a song from the title to the subject of the main theme – and as far as Jody’s concerned, you’ll quite likely find it’s one of your favorite performances from the guy on American Robot.  I’m not even saying that there’s still not a split second or two that he could probably even make this all come out just a bit smoother, but I am saying that it tends to play to his advantage this time around, and makes this particular cut a bit more endearing in comparison to the rest as a result.  There’s no doubt this is a downbeat & self-reflective moment here, again, just like the title would have you assuming before you even pushed play – but overall, it felt like Loud got to the core of the emotion & thought-provoking scenarios he’s put forth here in a way people will definitely connect to.  It’s the kind of situation that, if he HAD rounded out every corner to the nth degree, it’d be an immediate trade for the sincerity you’ll find, and that wouldn’t have been worth it at all – so props to that call, because in this case, it’s the right one to have made.  Some of my favorite lines from Loud show up in this tune…from slick name drops to celebrities like Ernie & Bert, to insightful glimpses into the soul of the man behind the mic as he questions life & love, Jody finds the right gear to be in throughout the vast majority of “Overthinking” that suits him and the song really well.

“Dreams” lightens-up the vibe from the seriousness for a moment, and just lets us chill out with a more easygoing concept that’s focused on keeping the good times lit.  Production-wise, this was a bizarre cut!  I wasn’t always 100% sold on how it all came out overall in terms of not rumbling itself right above the red towards the beginning of this cut musically and vocally, but then when Jody shows up, that’s where everything really seems to snap into place, and maybe even better than any spot previously on the record when it comes to the clarity…up until that point, a little dicey.  “Dreams” reveals my favorite mix on Loud’s vocals that I found on any track from American Robot, and definitely a blueprint I’d be looking at going forward when it comes to his own personal sound…but the rest was a much harder call, even though there’s not a moment on this cut you won’t wanna listen to.  Ultimately, I’m all about ideas – the rest is all stuff that can come together over time, experience, practice, rinse, wash, and repeat – and Jody proves he’s got plenty in the tank on “Dreams.”  From the history of where he’s been, to how he’s got his education locked-down to secure better days ahead, Loud always has his heart on his sleeve and it’s one of the easiest things to like & love about the guy – you can always tell he genuinely wants to be doing what he’s doing on the mic, and that his desire to communicate his thoughts is always authentic.  “Dreams” keeps the vibes flowin’ strong through lyricism we can all vividly see in pictures in our minds.

“If I Ruled The World” has one of THE best lines in hook that you’ll hear all year, I can promise ya that – and all-around, I think this was a true standout on American Robot for what Loud is looking to say here.  LISTEN to that first set of lines though will ya?  When you get that call & answer style of vocals interacting and you hear the response come through…it’s genius – “I know, it’s kinda like the language of the cosmos” – and it’s a huge statement that’ll clue you into what this track is really all about.  Jody puts together a complex set of lyrics into a solidly smooth flow & design here – but when it comes to what this whole cut is about, it’s direct & clear as day.  It’s about change.  No – it’s more direct than that even – it’s about the NEED for change, and the sense of urgency it should require, on part of all of us.  “If I Ruled The World” is one of those cuts that can’t be beat when it comes to providing you with insight into what an artist like Jody is really all about at his core and the way he thinks.  Sure he’s “touched more paper than a cashier,” you can tell by the sheer fact that this track exists that he knows money ain’t everything by a long shot.  There’s a ton more out there that needs to be accomplished in bringing the people together and giving everyone the opportunity to be the greatest their potential can reach – Jody & his crew go to work here and lay out some of the most insightful social commentary you’ll find on American Robot.  Memorable hooks, solid energy, important words…hard to argue with a cut like this.

It’s nice to hear the man stringing together some wins…it was a bit of a rocky start to begin, but Jody’s been rebounding and finding his way to strengthen the lineup track after track.  I mean, you gotta at least give him credit for lining it up in that direction as opposed to vice-versa…it might mean it takes a couple spins for most folks to get into American Robot as a result of that, but he does end up creating a record that seems to continually get better in many ways from start to finish.  “Lens” is a deep cut – and I love how the main hooks are spit…swagger & style for miles in the delivery there.  Right from the drop though, you’ll be able to tell from the music that the bright vibes of tracks like “Dreams” are long gone, transitioned smartly through “If I Ruled The World” in between, and now it’s time to get our heads outta the clouds & pay full attention.  “Lens” asks a whole lot of questions, puts forth real perspective, and ultimately holds the mirror right back up to us all, challenging us to see what Loud sees.  “I can’t fix you cause I got my own demons” is a line that rings true…and perhaps he’s revealed the key for Jody and the evolution of his own material over these years to follow as well on a personal level as well.  They say you can’t love someone else if you don’t love yourself…and I suppose that’s true; but if that’s the case, I’d imagine that theory applies to just about everything we do – as in, the more Jody Loud heals himself up and learns to accept who he is, what he’s capable of, and challenges himself to continually reach for that next level…whatever it might be…the more he appreciates & believes in what he can do, the stronger he’s gonna become & the smaller those demons are gonna become, if they even continue to exist at all.  Solid balance of strengths here though…I like what Loud has to say, I think the hooks are bulletproof, & the beat is 100% suited to the strengths of the emotions, thoughts, and feelings on display in this cut.

Good LORD…the smoothness & swagger in the hooks of the final track “Online” are as undeniable to the ears as they’ll ever have the privilege of hearing, straight UP.  We’ve heard a whole collection of featured artists throughout American Robot that…I mean…you gotta understand, Jody’s played a SIGNIFICANT role in playing this record on a really humble tip, allowing the spotlight to be shared so willingly.  Most artists don’t have the courage to do what he’s done with the design of these songs on American Robot, I can tell ya that wholeheartedly; I might have given him the business about not always being the star of the show at the start of this review, but it’s honestly equally impressive for entirely different reasons as well, you feel me?  “Don’t let your message get taken from you” might be my favorite line on the entire album, and it comes right here from the man direct – and more importantly, he spits it with that conviction I wanna hear.  Mind you…I have the feeling that Jody likely always speaks up even more strongly on behalf of others…on behalf of us all really…much more than he will for himself as he’s so often mired in the murk of self-doubt and questioning himself & the life around him.  “Real longevity is keeping your integrity” – I could quote Jody ALL DAY LONG here at the end of this new record – and it’s awesome to have him going out on a verifiable highlight that flexes multiple strengths.  He takes on keyboard warriors here…and even more generally, takes on anyone out there that can’t back up their words with some real action, or say what they mean with their chest, you dig?  The last thing you wanna be is an “internet gangster” – and if you ARE one, believe me when I say, Jody and his crew have not only called you out completely in the savage lyricism of this final track – but they’ve scorched ya beyond repair…the best thing you can do now is hang up your mouse & DYAs “Online.”

So here’s where I’m at…I’ll make a couple final points and just let this man get back to livin’ his LIFE instead of ranting at him all day to do this or do that, like all us critics believe we somehow have the right to do & comment on.  What I want, is for Jody to hit the studio with the full confidence of knowing his material inside & out…that means no paper in the booth, no phones for notes, just straight off the top of his dome, knowing the words inside & out when it comes time to push record…because I suspect that’s not what’s happening right now, and though it might be one of the hardest things to do in flexing the capacity of one’s memory to do it & remember all these words by heart, it’ll be 100% worth it in the end and make the entire difference.  That’s my theory…I don’t have anything that tells me I’m correct or any details on what his methods really are, but that’s what my ears are hearing…the man just needs to bolster his confidence a bit more to get the most out of himself on the m-i-c and he really ain’t far off.  The more you know the direction, tone, and cadence you want with every syllable by rote and don’t have to even make a single second guess in a performance from start to finish…it all stacks up quick to a quality that’ll rival the creativity & heart you’ll find in what an artist like Jody wants to communicate.  Because that’s where his strengths are right now without question – he’s got a great way of sharing his perspective through music, puts genuine sincerity into what he does at all times, and keeps us all on board & truly rooting for the guy, because we know he WANTS to do this music thang, and to the best of his abilities.  Lyrically, he crushed the majority of these cuts with highly insightful words, and he’s got a set list structured to keep raising the stakes along the way, which are huge positives.  Now it’s all about coming outta the gate at full strength, being objective and not being willing to sacrifice a solitary second in between what he’s capable of and what he can achieve.  He’s well worth betting on as an artist that’s always going to make noticeable improvements each time he steps back to the mic, and in the scope of an entire career…I mean, hey…you want that arc to play out just like the flow of this album did, you dig?

Keep it goin’ Jody.  Tons of great things to build on here brother.

Listen to his music and the new record American Robot at Spotify here:

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