Bar Exam: nobigdyl. – Solar (Album)
A One Listen Album Review
It was only a matter of years ago when I heard “everything you’ve made’s got that beauty in it.” That melody that nobigdyl. weaved into a hit single for the summer of 2015 planted a seed of trust into my hungry ears. There’s not many artists out who sound like nobigdyl. nor are there many who are as inventive. Hot off of his recent signing with Capitol Records nobigdyl. brings us “Solar.” Time for a bar exam.
“Anime” starts off in a humorous manner, with the typical “tribe” horses galloping past you hear a silenced gun shot and a female voice say “I really like the people we’re becoming.” The music chimes in, the beat dropping right when the flow starts. “I’mma say my peace to my enemies/If they coming for me tell em se la vie” Dyl’s flow is versatile even inside the constraints of this one song. He slows up, moves to rapid fire, brings out some melodies.. and the production around him enhances the performance in tremendous ways. These are ad-libs tucked behind the vocals are on fire. Above The Bar opening song.
“Block Me Back” begins with a phone vibrating. This is happening over an accordion sound and the phone is never answered. “we were drunk in love and now it’s prohibition” nobigdyl. goes in about a girl who cheated on him with his best friend. He’s blocked the girl, and he needs her to block him back. The music beds on this track are intricate. The accordion is the constant, but the bass lines switch up, keys layer in on the hook, and a drum kit is added in certain areas. The flow here is more simple than what was exemplified on the first track, but it’s still solid all around.
The next tune, “Bad Motives” implores some acoustic guitar vibes at the top, and Dyl rolls off a melody. “you think that I practice cuz I preach it/really I don’t mean it that’s the secret/I just let you see it I don’t seek it/I just hope TMZ do not leak it” He goes straight from this melodic thought into a flow and then back into this theme. The overall vibe of this song feels like Timbaland and Justin Timberlake. Medisin’s vocals on the Chorus soar across the instrumental chillingly.
The production collective “Weathrman” is on the beat for the next song, “Cordial.” Dyl poses the question “why’s my past keep holding my hand?” It’s similarly introspective and follows the themes presented so far. The beat here switches up a bit throughout from big string accents to fluid piano melodies. Some of this instrumental is cinematic.
So far each track is quick and to the point. Nothing is too shaggy and it’s an easy listen so far. There’s equal parts vulnerability and finesse, storytelling and confidence. I struggled a bit to follow the themes from the previous three tracks, and if he stays in this lane I might get worn out.
Give Him Room
“Twenty Eighteen” begins with a chiming sample on loop, and this kick drum punches you as Dyl comes in. “Headphones in the Uber I ain’t trying to talk/Last year was a lot I’m trying to walk it off/Don’t need intervention please don’t get involved/Pray that my decisions send me back to God” He sparks off an incredible stanza of metaphors around the video game “Madden NFL” and it’s incredible. I also caught a reference to Mogli the Iceburg when he said “I got demons in my DM.” This is the best track on the project so far. The beat leaves a lot of room for the artist, and nobigdyl. kills it.
Moving on, we’ve got the song “Pressure” featuring John Givez. “I got all this pressure on me I can’t get it off me.” The song starts off with a barrage of hooks, and the opening theme continues on in the background as another one is introduced. nobigdyl. moves easily from one texture to the next, throws in a melody and switches back to more bars. The nonchalantness in his voice is inspiring. He doesn’t seem to be bearing down at all in order to get these lines out. The natural talent is evident.
While each of these songs are short, Dyl isn’t worried about any of his hooks being too played out. He makes it seem easier than it should be, but even here on “Be A Man,” he keeps the listener intrigued while repeating those three words over and over again. The production throughout is top notch, enhancing the performances and no beat replicates the next one. WhatupRG drops a fire verse here. “I might be the reason why my friends don’t turn to Jesus”
The pacing of this album is so fast. Once you’re vibing and just settling into one song, the next one begins. There is so much to appreciate sonically about this project, it’s almost overwhelming to take it all in. I feel like I’m coming up for air just as I’m hit with another wave.
“Psycho Heart” continues with the concept of relationships. He seems to be sharing his experiences with some crazy girls he’s come across. The eerie and off kilter yet hopeful sounding hook here is outstanding. It hits you in a different way because it’s an appealing hook, then you realize what the person is singing. It’s an embodiment of the whole concept of the song.
There’s a couple of preacher samples used to get us into songs. Here on “Shadow,” nobigdyl. uses “love you so much” as an anaphora in each line. He’s listing all the ways that he’s sacrificed, centered his life around another person, and changed his ways. He moves to “hate me so much” as the beat gets darker and more intense. There’s an underlying darkness to this song that gives it some tension as all of these vocals mesh together.
Check The Meter
There are not enough songs in hip-hop that are over beats in 6/8. Right when we switched to “Close” I noticed the meter, and was excited to hear how nobigdyl. navigated it. There’s a melody theme that is introduced at the beginning with some vocals singing “Ooooo” and just as I begin to start tuning those out, the instrumentation begins to carry that line. I have a feeling that this project was constructed and creatively conceived with the short attention spans of listeners being considered. This song talks about failures, faults and debts. We’re ultimately pointed to Jesus who bore all of that with nails on a cross.
“Orion” has an interesting instrumental to it, with some brass, electric guitars, and then the typical beats and synths. They all lap over each other and create a great atmosphere for nobigdyl. and his melodic bars. This song brings forth the topic of carrying your light into the world. This is what I envision “Solar” to mean. It’s an encouraging and challenging message. It closes out with another preacher sample. “The darkness cannot overcome the light.”
The hand off from that last track is seamless topically. On the final track, “Enemies?” nobigdyl. is talking about spreading love. He references Star Wars, and says he’s got the recipe for a better us — spread more love. There’s some lines from Drake and Eminem thrown in, not to bite but to drive the point home. It’s a great closing track.
Summer has finally arrived with this album. The music here feels like riding with the top down. It feels like reminiscing with old friends. It feels like nobigdyl.’s gonna be around for quite awhile. Go purchase and stream this album! He was absolutely masterful on this project. The pacing is terrific, the concepts that he tackles are accessible, and musically it all soars above the bar. This isn’t a project without it’s flaws. I slumped on it from track 2-4, but he kept bringing confidence in his material and his talent, and easily climbed out of the rut created at the beginning. I think that rut was there for me because the concepts weren’t so solid. Once he picked up the pace and became more on-point with the message, it was all up hill from there.
Overall Rating: Above The Bar