Bar Exam: Adrian – 1995 (Album)
A One Listen Album Review
I was pleased to find a review submission from Adrian for his album 1995 last week. We have featured the track “No Sé” here at newh2o, but I was unaware of this album release. The artwork and album name show a lot of intentionality. The picture of a baby with a stuffed teddy bear in front of flowers looking up at the number (I’m assuming the year) 1995 shows that the artist has somewhere in mind that he’d like to lead the listener. I’m already taken back to the year 1995 myself, being bullied as a middle schooler, my grandfather’s passing, my family moving towns that year, and the first year my dad didn’t coach me in baseball. (I digress) Needless to say, I see this as a pleasing cover that entices emotional and nostalgic response, and I’m very hopeful that the music matches the intentions present here. Let’s go.
We begin the project with the title track, “1995.” Adrian is storytelling a bit about his childhood, beginning at birth and moving through middle school age. The pause-heavy instrumental pairs well with his fast paced flow. Adrian sings on the hook and his vocals are average. His tone is a bit pop/punk and I’m not quite sure if it matches the pop rap vibe he’s got going just yet. Conceptually he’s inviting the listener into his life. “You get what you see.” “Raise a glass to our haters/We wouldn’t be here without them.” This song is at the bar.
“Thankful” begins with some chimes and a preacher’s sermon sample. The beat drops and Adrian comes at it well. He switches a little back and forth between bars and melodies. He’s very comfortable with what he’s bringing here. “I’m the man/everything I do is getting blessed to the end.” His rhyme schemes aren’t too intricate to follow, and he’s staying on point with the idea of being thankful. The beat is nice and easy and gives room for him to do what he wants over it. “I ain’t got a co-sign or a record deal/Yeah I can’t afford a steak or a happy meal/Used to sneak into places that I couldn’t afford pay/But I’m thankful that He paved my way.” He’s singing the hook here again, but there’s a bit of effects thrown on there and it’s more pleasing to me. We’re riding the bar so far.
Riding the Bar
I’m digging the soul samples that have shown up so far. We begin the next track “Rich” with an interlude-is type of start. What sounds like it could be the hook is phased out a little without any beat behind it and a chipmunk soul sample woven in. Bro… yes! This first verse is thumpin! So many dope references, his inflections are in great places and the layers to the instrumental enhance the performance perfectly here. I will say the instrumental is a bit busy, but it’s not distracting me just yet. Britton comes by for the second verse and it’s fire as well. There’s some triplet flows here and it’s terrific. This one is above the bar and worth quite a few more listens.
The next track, “Thirsty” starts with a dark and haunting vibe. “Pour another round cuz I still feel empty.” Adrian jumps with some heavily auto-tuned melodies. Seems to me that he had a hook and decided to fully run with that feel the whole way. Conceptually it’s hitting well. We won’t ever be satisfied fully if we continue to chase after things that won’t fulfill. I appreciate the versatility but this beat needed a flow.
Adrian is great at creating catchy hooks. At the top of “Cycles” he introduces another memorable melody just before the deep bass drops in. His flow here is intense. He’s got a couple different levels to what he can bring. Very talented here at creating an atmosphere of emotions on the track. When I say he comes with intention, I’m saying he knows the right places to slow down or speed up. He’s got a couple different gears, and tools in his toolbox that he can use at will and it’s refreshing to hear. Rinzler closes out the song with some crazy vocals. This track is an absolute banger. *Fire Emoji*
Finding the sweet spot
“Forgive” begins with a piano sample and a chilled out beat. There’s some nice vibes here with all melodies. An uncredited female sings the hook. Adrian seems to be looking back at a broken relationship, arriving at the conclusion that you need to forgive yourself before you can love again. It’s a nice change of pace from the previous song.
The next tune, “Start” fades in some synth in with a subtle kick drum.
“This my story it ain’t finished like pink chicken/I’m just getting started boy like a fresh engine/I ride the wave until it ended cuz I was ending/God keep on sending blessings I get the message/”
The rhyme scheme here is a bit unorthodox but there’s a lot of personality in his voice here, and he’s focused on bringing the listener in closer to hear what he has to say. It sounds like a tribute song, where Adrian speaks about all that he’s thankful for, and realizes that every day is new opportunity, its the start of something new. This song is really well done. I feel like if I would have heard this without it being packaged as part of this album, I’d have easily skipped over it. But it’s a fair mid-paced introspective spot here.
I’m feeling the vibe right at the start of “Real Life.” It seems to be sampling some guitars and some soul vocals and I’m ready for it all to turn up. Adrian so far has shown he can spit all kinds of ways while also delivering some impressive melodies. He’s back to the former here. Adrian brings some confidence and some punchlines that I couldn’t see coming.
“Everybody says I’mma go far/But they only say it to my face/Cuz they don’t understand my vision/Nah they ain’t really in the race/I’ve been pushed down, knocked around and lied to/Just to get ahead of the rest/And I got more stress from working late/I daydream of sleeping less/Yuh, I don’t have time for the small talk/I can’t let em get ahead of me/Netflix asks if I’m still watchin/Over my shoulder for the enemy”
KHAM comes in on the second verse and picks up where Adrian left off. It’s tremendous. I wish this hook was stronger. It brings the energy down quite a bit. The flows on this song are fire, and the hook needs to match that. It’s frustrating because I know Adrian can bring some tough hooks. This song is begging for that. As a complete song this one is lacking the full package.
A Great Ending
The final track on 1995 is the one track I’ve previously heard, “No Sé” and Levi Parker is leadoff. It feels great. Has a Spanish vibe to it of course. His verse has a ton of wordplay involved, and hands off to the hook very well. Adrian brings some heat on this second verse. He’s inspiring with the flow and the confidence once again. This song is outstanding all around. Layers upon layers of great music and flows. “They ask me how I do it I say No Sé.” Trey Buckner spits the last verse of the album and leaves the listener with a great taste. I love it when an album ends with a fire track, it redeems a lot because it’s the last impression you get and you almost forget where you’ve been wronged before. Too bad I am typing as I listen.
I’m tremendously impressed. Adrian brought nothing but confidence, charisma and dopeness on this project. This one will fly under your radar but I’m here to tell you that this marks the start of something great for Adrian’s career. He’s got all you want in a modern hip-hop album here. From clever bars to enchanting melodies, from spastic performances to banging beats, I’m confident you’ll be pleased to press play on this one. 1995 was a tough year for me, but it saw Adrian be brought into the world. 2018 is the year the world witnesses what he can do on the mic. This project wasn’t perfect, but the parts that shine were better than average. All things considered, there was a small slump with a dip in energy, and some interesting creative choices that kept this one from being above the bar. This project has such promise though, don’t sleep on Adrian. If he keeps this up he’ll be a star.
Overall Rating: At The Bar