Review: ItsYaBoiH2, Pair-a-lesions
To be honest, ever since Eminem released his first album, I’ve been suspect of contemporary indie rap. He’s clearly a born lyricist when he deepens the subject matter (i.e. “Lose Yourself”), but the nails-in-a-sink-disposal nature of his voice pushed me away with both hands immediately, not to mention his often unoriginal flood of instrumentation. That being said, I’ve steered clear of the genre all together for some years now, but thank goodness I took another listen. ItsYaBoiH2’s most recent album, Pair-a lesions, invited me in, and I continue to be thrilled about it. Though H2’s vocals smack of Eminem, he has a milder timbre, and the album as a whole feels like a sophisticated, home-boy block party: the guys spit playful rhymes but also throw down about the seriousness of growing up, identity, and the other big issues one only discusses with the closest of friends. In short, it’s an album of intimacy and skill, a saving grace to the genre.
The first sense of ‘invitation’ comes from the “Intro” track, which runs only about 30 seconds and consists mostly of what sounds like dudes talking on the street, or in the schoolyard. Much like the tail end of some of Lauryn Hill’s tracks on Miseducation, this conversational tactic draws a listener in, helps them kick back on a stoop and just eavesdrop. However, right off the bat, one can detect some sharpness in the voices, giving us another clue about what we can expect from the rest of the album – conversational with an edge.
The next two tracks maintain the mostly positive vibe, accumulating slightly rougher moments along the way. “Preachin,” shifts the album into a more musical realm. It offers a melodic, catchy chorus–very hummable/singable–and the rhyming is fantastic, employing an impressive usage of the poetic techniques of slant rhyme, all the lyrics are thoroughly pleasing: ‘destination/decimated,’ ‘my range is outrageous.’ “Feelin’ Like a New Fight” slides us back to the messy, conversational nature of “Intro,” though I think the messiness is intentional—creating the feeling of ‘talent from the neighborhood,’ of moving up in the world. The brilliant Nina Simone “Feelin’ Good’ sample incorporated throughout, and the vocal ‘oooos’ that arrive toward the middle, pull the tune together like a zipper–a perfect balance of shooting the shit and well thought out musical structure.
“My Basement” takes the album down a notch energetically and emotionally, deepening a sentimental, melodic guitar line with dark, eerie samples of Led Zepplin. “Fall At Your Feet” is also very effective in shifting the mood of the album, this time from sadness to sadness tinged with aggression. The hook is catchy and unfortunately also little pedestrian; however, I’m tempted to believe that’s also intentional, to showcase the fabulously Bare-Naked-Ladies-esque, sputtering word rhythms. ItsYaBoiH2 also, again, includes a vocal sample here, all of which seem to act as glue for every individual track on which they appear, as well as the album as a whole.
The thread of street conversation reappears in “New In Town,” which leads perfectly into the sweet, chillin’ vibe of “Do Without (Again)”, as if the conversation stopped just to hang out, relax, and listen to some good, R&B jazzy rap spinning, and of course, vocals. The vocals take over ten-fold in “Easy,” seemingly with the same vocal sample as some of the earlier tracks, or at least one that’s very similar, making the vocals an even more unifying aspect of the album.
“Resettin,” aptly resets the mood once again, delving deeper into longing and darkness. Vocals continue to be the river that connects this tune to the others, but this time, it’s a John Mayer sample, heightening the heartache, rather than the usual soulful, female vocal which heightens the badass.
The title track “Pair-a-lesions” continues the melancholy feeling, but less effectively, and the lyrics feel a little redundant right after “Resettin,” which explores similar themes. However, the last track, “Lay it on the Line,” is by far my favorite, and seems to draw all the best aspects from all the tracks before it—vocals, samples, sparkling uniqueness of instrumentation—it’s the blast off toward which the entire album has been heating up.
With his solid, thematic lines of heartbreak, anger, and hope, his inviting conversational loops, and his unbeatable lyrical skills, ItsYaBoiH2 has clearly nailed this album. The only low points seem to be due to slight lapses in direction/focus, which might have something to do with the toggle between sources of production, but who can say? For the most part, Pair-a-lesions is a gift, a lifeguard, and some serious bling for the contemporary indie rap genre, and all I can say is: it’s about time someone laced up some real MC shoes around here.
ItsYaBoiH2, Pair-a-lesions is available on iTunes.
Reviewed by Alice Neiley
Rating: 4 stars out of 5