A Single Track Review

It’s cool to see that this Bar Exam thing catching on. We’ve had a good amount of response to the posts we’ve shared this week and are very excited to be able to use this to challenge and encourage artists. I had the honor of listening to a fellow Italian’s song today. The name of the track is Prose and Cons, by the artist Illtalian.

Initial Observation

At first look, the cover art is appealing and feels classic, almost like an Adele album. (Not a diss just an observation) The description of the album shares how this is all dedicated to the memory of a close friend, and before I click play on this track I feel like I’m about to encounter someone who takes himself seriously. Regardless, at the push of “play” I was pleased with what I heard.

I feel like there needs to be a disclaimer here before we dig into what this song is like. I’ve stated before how difficult it is to judge an entire work by only hearing a small piece. This is not the place for that. We will only dive into this single track, and let the entire piece speak for itself at a later date.

Intricate Production

Now, the musical presentation of this song is the first thing that grabs me. Ariki Foster did a masterful job of keeping the intrigue of this track high, which could be difficult to do considering it’s 6 minutes long. The song has a “5 Fingers Of Death” feel to it because of this, with the beat switching up quite a bit. Very good overall production and mixing.

On a track like this, performance and writing work together hand in hand. The direction so far has primed the listener to be ready for a freestyle, and Ill does just that. Straight out of the gate you’re hit with what sounds like a battle rap/diss track, and every other line packs a punch.

“Ill isn’t my name it’s also my job description.”
“Future of the game/No money at the moment but I will bring change.”
“Spitting rhymes hotter than *insert actress*”
“I’m betting on myself/Word to Pete Rose”
“So dope I’m only legal in Colorado”

The punchlines keep coming, which makes this a fun song to experience. Battle rap tracks seem awkward for me in CHH. I struggle with trying to figure out who the audience is in this case. Is the artist rapping at a muse, the listener, or does he have serious beef that needs squashed?

Direction Matters

As far as creative direction goes for this song, it’s all above the bar and off the charts. The production and the pause-heavy, punchline laden performance drive the concept home well. As an emcee, Illtalian doesn’t seem polished here, but again the rawness fits with the overall freestyle vibe the track has going for it.

One Final Observation

When it comes to displaying what an artist can do on a track, actions speak louder than words. I am critical of all art in this way. My plea as I walk into a theater for a movie or a musical is “show me, don’t tell me.” The same goes for when I click play. I get worn out when someone in any context keeps telling me how dope or great they are because I just want them to show me. Some of my favorite rappers can get by with the braggadocio on certain tracks because I am bought into the fact that they’ve shown me their dopeness on the rest of their stuff.

Nonetheless, as I stated earlier I haven’t heard the rest of Illtalian‘s music so I can’t comment on whether or not this track is the exception or the rule. All I know is that it’s tough to keep a listener’s attention for 6+ minutes, and Illtalian did just that.

Rating: Above The Bar

-Luc

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