Venice Beach rapper and producer Pause says that he is dedicated to the creation of “honest” hip-hop, so much so that he built his own studio and taught himself how to play multiple instruments: flute, guitar, harmonica, keys, and alto sax. His album, No Small Order, is slated for release mid-March 2015, and one can’t help but wonder what this “honest music” is that Pauses promises to deliver in the first place.
It can be argued that any music made out of love for the art is honest. In other words, an artist’s authenticity is the most important ingredient. Authenticity is a hard element to evaluate in a review. I tried to put into words why I felt that indeed, the tracks on this album were quite honest and found myself tinkering endlessly with sentences that would put any blogger to shame. Some of it has to do with how polished each track is; a lot of attention was put into every note in every track. Another part of it has to do with the fact that Pause is unapologetic about his life choices, while neither defending them nor imposing them. Some of it might have to do with the fact that while the tracks on the album feature sounds that soon become familiar, they are each quite different.
Unfortunately for those like me who don’t like that kind of stuff, No Small Order also includes explicit language and material concerning a certain kind of substance—you can imagine what topic the track “Get High” and “The Joint” might discuss! This, and Pause’s claim to have made everything on this album while stoned and to have checked it while drunk gave me, well, pause. Would I like an album that was produced by someone whose life choices are different from mine?
The tracks span a variety of genres and combinations – four categories, one could say. The first category are songs featuring a 1970s funk flair. The opening, mid-tempo “Have You Seen” is mellow and groovy, Pause’s relaxed rapping flowing well with UltraLove’s soul-inspired crooning. The electric guitar “Wonder Why” helps to pick up the beat; the same style of rapping is enhanced this time by background soul-singing. The laid-back and mellow “Get High” is, interestingly enough, led by a flute. Pause isn’t encouraging listener to get stoned. He’s sharing his way of pausing, relaxing, and enjoying the little, simple things in life. The tune could find a natural place in a lazy Saturday afternoon playlist. “Feelin’s Alright” clocks in as the most energetic track of this category and is one of the strongest tracks of the album.
The second category contains the angrier tracks, which happen to also be the more explicit ones, perhaps naturally so, including the heavier-sounding “Hit Me Like You Mean It,” “Breaking Bad” and the much slower and stripped “Glass Box”. The third category has the groovy, more modern-sounding tracks that get your foot stomping without you even realising it. Pause added background group clapping in the already rhythmic and uptempo, piano-driven “Jerk Like Me”, while “Never Done It Better” feels like the most typical hip-hop track of the album. The fourth category is more classic hip-hop, such as the attitude-dripping “The Joint”, the inspirational “Street Band” that reminds at times of Tupac, and “Bad Man”.
Part of the reason I didn’t like it in its entirety is because his life choices he raps about just isn’t my thing. While this made some of the tracks in the album not jive for me, it didn’t take away from the fact that each track on No Small Order is well produced, polished, well-thought-out, and well delivered.
Pictures provided by Working Brilliantly.
First published on Blogcritics.