Bar Exam: Eric Heron & OnBeatMusic – Duos (EP)
A One Listen Album Review
In 2017, Eric Heron took me by surprise. So much so that I talked about both of his projects “Dawn” and “Afterglow” in my recap of last year. This time he dropped a collaboration, a seven track project with OnBeatMusic entitled “Duos.” All of this coming the same week OnBeatMusic wins the Houston leg of the Remy Martin Producer Series. There’s so many reasons to be excited about this project. I’m very happy to be listening to Eric Heron again. Let’s go.
Track one, “Press Start” begins like an arcade game would, asking for you to insert an addition coin. The beat drops, it’s laid back and Eric feels it out with his confident flow. “Now I’m feet down/Prayin that the competition want a recount/Can’t hear ’em speak now.” The beat thumps with a familiar video game theme, Eric’s voice is doubled but the double is an octave below. Topically here he’s explaining how life is tough and you’ve gotta fight through it. Terrific start here.
“Paul Newman” is the second track. Eric jumps in almost immediately, switching up his flow as he picks apart the beat. “New man like Paul… no Newman” As the song progresses he gets more repetitive with the things he says. Legitimately repeats lines until he’s interrupted and asked to “stop saying that so much.” This song has great vibes throughout, and the concept is easy to conceive. Besides those things at first blush, it doesn’t seem like he’s saying much.
The next song is called “Clickbait.” It begins with a bass line and a drum loop. Eric jumps in and raps about the persona we try and carry in front of other people. He’s natural with this flow. The hook comes at you with this idea of the high we get from getting likes and retweets online. It’s all clickbait. Dillon Chase jumps in rapid fire on track two. “You want everybody to know you but you don’t even know you buddy that’s so true.” Each track here is around three minutes, keeping the pace rolling.
Track four is the title track “Duos.” I think the whole idea they’re touching on here is that we’re stronger when we don’t try to face things on our own. The beat here throws in some pauses, and has a lot of space for Eric’s verse. A perfect bed for these emcees. Chris Aye is on the second verse and it seems he might be uncomfortable with the tempo here. He had to slow down his delivery to match the pace. OnBeat brings the hooks, it all sounds nice bit I’m not really feeling this one.
“In My Bag” has a lot of intricate layers to it. There’s a palm muted electric guitar along with some marimba sounding bells, and a melodic bass line. Eric’s flow over the top of this bobs back and forth with a melody. “I’m a king like I’m Ron/I got rings like I’m Maury/ thinking like 50 years I look back “Oh what a story”/glorious days/the glory of praise/Only know just one wave I’ll ride it to end of days” There’s an inherent tropical vibe and he rides this feel to the end. All of these pieces work together well but I’m slumping a bit here.
Next up is a song called “Gente.” The hook goes “I do this for my gente.” I had to look it up, but “gente” means relatives, folks, or people. The beat here fits perfectly once again with the video game theme, and this one is almost Mario Brothers. Switching back and forth between English and Spanish the whole way, Eric and OnBeat brought out a solid track here. This is a step up from where we’ve been.
We close out with the song “Game Over.” There’s a muffled piano sample that sounds a bit melancholy to start off. Eric’s shares with transparency the chasing of money, learning life lessons, and not wanting to fall off. He paints perfect word pictures and his flow of thought is great. “I’m counting the days til I seek God/Sorry for biting the apple man no Steve Jobs.” The conclusion is a challenge to not waste your life. There’s a metaphor being used about the chances you have in an arcade compared to the chances you can take with life. Let’s not chase after broken things, but use all of our tokens where it matters.
“Duos” is a great listen. Sonically, the beats and the versatility present in the performances all sound nice. The imagery that is created, and the feeling of nostalgia you get just from looking at the cover art says a lot. But what I found here is that there’s not much deeper to it than that. OnBeat and Eric are so talented, this was an easy and fun listen. They carried the gaming theme throughout with all the references and the creative direction, bringing you in from the beginning and leaving you to ponder life at the end. It’s a well crafted and thought through project. I know I sat here listing things that were good about it, but I just feel like along with all of that there’s still something missing. By track four I found myself in a slump and wasn’t able to really get out until track seven. I lost some energy in this project but I still think it’s at the bar.