Young Swain – Invictus – Album Review
“I’m tired of being held back, slept on & disappointed” – #heard Young Swain…talent like yours deserves to get noticed my brother. We have got ourselves a verifiable talent on the m-i-c y’all…Young Swain puts a ton of thought into his words and into the vibes he’s creating – and believe me when I tell ya, right upon pushing play on the opening cut “Victimization” featuring Avery Shanks, you can feel the weight of conscious Hip-Hop work its magic on ya within every syllable he spits. Love the harmonies, love the hooks, and I absolutely love the piano melody that guides this first track along – between the bars of the verses and the soulful hooks embedded into the chorus, Young Swain has no problem at all making a favorable first impression. The man’s a poet, and there’s no mistaking it for exactly what it is – the power of words is the blueprint to victory here – “I am the master of my fate, I am the master of my soul” as he’ll tell ya himself – and from what you can hear instantly on track ONE, you know that not only is what he saying true, you know that he’s ready to take ownership of his future & destiny ahead.
You’ll find a ton of guest-stars pop up throughout the set-list, bringing major versatility to the lineup overall as a result. With each passing cut, you get additional personality – bonus singers, emcees, and musicians all lending their time & talents to assisting Young Swain reach his goals & dreams. It’s impressive just to LOOK AT y’all – you can see the amount of names that run through this lineup, and it’s crystal clear that not only is Young Swain ridiculously skilled himself, but he’s got a full complement of talent in the scene surrounding him, all ready to lend a hand the minute the red light comes on in the studio and it’s time to record. Everything about Invictus is supremely well rehearsed & ready to roll – you’re not gonna hear a single syllable out of place as this album snaps together – “Ole Skool” features Bottomshelf and Mr. Blak N Mile, and together these dudes tear it UP with effective rhythm & rhymes. Stylistic AF, you’ll listen to “Ole Skool” and realize that what Young Swain and his crew have goin’ on is actually light-years ahead of the rest of the game…LISTEN to those harmonies in the hooks, LISTEN to the uniqueness of the music…LISTEN to how these three own every single moment you hear – there’s no mistaking the sound of emcees at the top of their game, and all three of’em prove that’s where they are.
Get the man some volume in his headphones though will ya? “Jump” featuring Blak Dove shows how the multiple personalities that contribute to this record quickly diversify the sound of the entire lineup, and give us many reasons to want to keep listening to the whole set-list. “I drop my zipper to the world – it’s like I fuck for my health” is but one of MANY impressive lines you’ll find throughout Invictus – and while it’s likely the words that’ll have you raising an eyebrow or two as you listen, it’s the conviction in the performance and the confidence that he puts into every word that’ll have you turning Young Swain UP. The rhythm and precision is key to getting a track like “Jump” moving as it should be, and you can hear that this crew of talent has no problem at all rising to the challenge, nailing it piece by piece, syllable by syllable, and making every word have as much bounce to it as possible to make the impact it all should. With a respectful shout-out to D. Wade in the mix…I’m all about it…we’re only like a month or so away from the NBA playoffs and I’m already buzzing…any basketball reference outside of the Lakers always resonates quickly with me. They slice up the bars of the verses with flawlessly fluid flow and next-level star quality as they cruise through “Jump” – and when they hit those hooks, believe me when I tell ya they make the most of every single moment. It’s got a Trap-like element to it without actually BEING Trap, you feel me? There’s no way that an artist like Young Swain and the thought he’s put into this lineup doesn’t end up in the Conscious Hip-Hop section like it all should be – but yeah – note the hybrid vibes he brings into a cut like this and how it’s got that crossover appeal that works.
Mr. Blak N Mile is the only dude that I can see shows up on multiple tracks in this set-list, and he shows up again on “Bang Bang” along with Hotlife Veedo & Cgz to put the venom into the words on this collaborative cut. As far as hooks go, they’ve got something really single-worthy to examine here – it’s not a matter of the previous three cuts not having something special to vibe on, it’s just that “Bang Bang” has that much more of a degree of accessibility to it, and that much more of a memorable hook at the core of its chorus. Mad respect for the perfection we’re hearing – Young Swain and his crew of cohorts put the WORK into the words, and prove to be as equally unafraid of telling it like it really is as they are entertaining. Tracks like “Bang Bang” are freakin’ essential if you ask me – not only are they massively catchy for the hooks as much as the uniqueness you’ll find, but together they all make it clear that they’ve got something REAL to say. Yes you’ll find relevant style & sound that fits right into what’s happening today throughout all corners of Rap to some degree, but you’ll also find that Young Swain has ensured that each cut has got a ton of valid insight & grounded perspective coming along with the beats.
“R.N.G.” dials the energy back in the beat, and keeps the skills sharp as they come on the mic. You can feel the shift as you move into this track…it’s got that immediate ‘pay attention for a serious moment’ sound to it, and like the faithful listeners we are, we do. Shout-out to Jamil Scott – this dude can bend bars with sheer will and nail a hook just as hard…between him and Young Swain, these two find a way to make a slow cut make just as much of an impact as the up-tempo vibes. A lot of that comes through the speed of the lyricism & vocals in comparison to the music itself – the contrast gives major depth to the sound of “R.N.G.” overall, and something solid for your ears to grab onto at every twist & turn. Puttin’ it on the line here, Young Swain gets seriously real with ya in his words on “R.N.G.” and details what the daily grind is like, what’s put him there, and what the many obstacles are that he’s faced to become the man that he is today. All-in-all, I felt like “R.N.G.” was one of the most impressive cuts on a record that is literally filled with them from start to finish…it’s no easy task to stand out in a situation like that, but there’s nothing about this track that doesn’t stand out for all the right reasons. It’s one of the most complete cuts I’ve heard in this dude’s catalog so far without question, and a straight-up achievement – “R.N.G.” is the kind of track that’ll take you right out of your world and put you right into Young Swain’s.
Returning for his third of three appearances, Mr. Blak N Mile shows up once more in Young Swain’s corner to lend a hand on “Come Down” as Young Swain takes the tales of Invictus even further into a series of serious vibes, keeping it mellow in the music and movin’ quickly through the words he spits. I’ll admit, it’s probably the first cut I’ve run into on the record where I questioned whether or not the chorus was a real fit for what was already goin’ on in the music and bars beforehand…and I’m still not sure I’m entirely convinced it did. It’s in there cohesively enough…I suppose that’s what can be said – but to me, there’s no denying the fact that it’s the verses that are likely to make the biggest impact on the listening ears out there. “Come Down” has a lot of stylistic sound working well in its favor – and I like the way the chorus itself is designed & sung…I’m just giving props and credit where credit is due – it’s the verses where Mr. Blak N Mile and Young Swain tend to shine brightest on this particular track. That being said, the man makes plenty of time for the music to have its moment in the spotlight on this cut as well, and my ears always appreciate it when an emcee has the courage required to do that. Trust me when I tell ya…most out there are determined to fill the space as much as possible – it makes a statement in itself when you hear men like Young Swain and Mr. Blak N Mile come in, handle their business, and have the confidence to leave it as-is & let the music spin. If there was something they could have accomplished that they didn’t already, I’d be sure to point that out – the reality is, they nail what they came in to achieve, and let the vibes carry the rest of the cut from there on in. Think of it this way – if you got ALL your work done in the first two hours of an eight hour day, would you REALLY hang around for the other six if you had the option? Young Swain & Mr. Blak N Mile give “Come Down” major style verbally as it begins, then have no problem bowing out for a moment to let the music work its own magic on ya. Which is important…the music jams throughout this whole record with brilliant production and tight beats…it’d be a genuine crime for anyone out there to miss it – hopefully moves like this make that more difficult, and all the people out there listening give these cuts the full love they truly deserve.
According to the credits of the set-list, “Different Love” at track seven, is actually the first cut you hear where it’s all Young Swain on his own – no guest stars backin’ him up this time around. Believe that, the man has given you zero reason to doubt him based on all you’ve heard to this point on Invictus – but JUST in case there’s anyone out there still wondering whether or not he can carry a cut all on his own…well…here’s your undeniable proof. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that “Different Love” is probably one of the most universally accessible cuts to be found on the entire record…it’s a bit mellow & low-key energy-wise yes, but the melody & hooks are on-point to the degree where you’d have to consider this track as a potential single as well. Young Swain encourages y’all to turn the lights down low here for a moment or two if you catch my drift…”Different Love” is all about that time where you NEED someone, whether it’s for a night or for a lifetime, you’ve felt it, you know it. The man’s got the feeling detailed perfectly here – “it’s way deeper than sexual” – and that is perhaps the song’s strongest asset all-around – YES it’s a highly sensory vibe he’s rockin’ with, but Young Swain proves he’s in it for more than just an easy lay. He’s goin’ twelve inches deep with his mind y’all…that’s what I’m saying…dude knows there’s much more to a real connection than merely what happens between the sheets, and “Different Love” details just how much thought that he really brings to the art of lovin’ & what it means to him long term.
“The Starz” had that immediate sound of a song I knew would appeal to me. Sometimes you just know, you know? Believe me when I tell ya, I’ve enjoyed every single second of this record when it comes right down to it – Young Swain has done a spectacular job on this entire lineup – but we’re all gonna have those sounds & songs we know naturally speak straight to us. From the moment that “The Starz” began, I could feel the weight of the atmosphere had what I was looking for – and between the main star of the show & his homies Mr. Wendel & Goudaman, they deliver on the potential & promise this cut had straight off the drop. I’ll be real with ya in the sense that I’m not EVERYONE…I can recognize that there’s a good chance that “The Starz” might have to battle a little harder for its deserved attention on those first couple spins perhaps…it’s a bit more of a defined & moody vibe that probably appeals more to a specific mood of your own…sometimes music is like that. Those are the songs we reach for when we know that we need’em most – and when you hit up “The Starz” you know you’ll be in the mood for a cut that has verifiable depth, reliable sound, and substance to be found throughout every bar you’ll hear.
“You’re alive…but I question…are you really living? You eat…you drink…but are you merely just existing?” These are things I think myself every single day…sometimes it’s an internal reflection on whether or not I’m doing enough…sometimes it’s an assessment of something I’m listening to where I’m wondering where the passion is at. I love the fact that I haven’t had to question Young Swain’s conviction at ANY point throughout Invictus – this dude made this record with PURPOSE…and as a result of his efforts, he’s come out with what’s essentially a bulletproof lineup of songs he can proudly stand behind. “Alive” might very well be one of THE highlights on the entire record – the second of two that feature the man all on his own solo – I don’t think you could have asked a single thing more from the man than exactly what he gives ya here. Exceptional doesn’t even cover half of how I feel about this cut – Young Swain proves he’s got TONS of skill, craft, and artistic courage on tracks like “Alive” that give him the opportunity to say what he wants to say, exactly how he wants to say it without compromise.
LISTEN to these words will ya? Young Swain made the right call by leaving his title-track for the finale of his new record…”Invictus” creates the massive impact it should, right at the very end, leaving us on a real statement track in his catalog and a hard-hitting song that is guaranteed to keep you coming back. I love the fact that it’s never once felt like Young Swain has pandered to us as listeners…if you’re finding hooks, they’re organic ones…the results of a man that’s got the kind of X-factor talent & personality that can’t help but stand out, not because he’s writing or engineering a situation to find its way into the charts. You can hear the effects of this approach all throughout this album…it’s the sound of conviction – it’s the sound of belief in the material, and rightly so. Tracks like “Invictus” are as bold as they get…personally, creatively, artistically – all that…Young Swain pulls no punches when it comes time to perform, and he consistently spits his rhymes at full strength from the cadence of his words to the messages he’s communicating. Right from the drop, you can feel the weight come back into the record again for another serious moment on the m-i-c, and Young Swain proves one last time on Invictus that he swings BIG – and never misses. The man writes words that land with memorable impact – and he’s got such identifiable sound & signature style, that he’s bound to craft himself an unbreakable legacy over time with all the effort he’s putting into the music he’s making. He’s tackled important social issues, he’s proven he’s got relevant sound built for the right here & now, he’s revealed an entire lineup of all-star guests throughout this whole set-list, including Mo, who makes an assist on this final track. “Invictus” has delivered beat for beat, bar for bar, with substance and style in-check throughout the distance of what’s an ambitious record, written with real intent, purpose, and something real to say.
Listen to more music by Young Swain at Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/artist/6cwuZlpTnfWPM5DOSKVT8r
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