Review: Canon – “Home” (Album)
Canon’s “Home”: This time it ain’t just about being fast
During the production of Furious 7, Vin Diesel commented how the death of co-star Paul Walker not only changed the ending of that movie but set the tone for future sequels, stating “Furious 7 was for Paul but the next one [The Fate of the Furious] is from Paul.” Diesel’s brief distinction between the two installments was nonetheless telling: while Furious 7 was primarily concerned with gracefully paying homage to Paul and everything that came before, The Fate of the Furious symbolized the cast and crew’s rebound from the tragedy and ushered in a new era for the franchise; it was as much a continuation as a rebirth.
For RMG’s Canon, his latest album Home embodies a similar sentiment and represents his bouncing back “from” tragedy. The Chicago emcee had a near-fatal fall off of a 20-foot ravine back in 2014, and though he recovered, it was the source of much trauma and doubt, which he articulated in tracks like “Take It All Away.” At the same time, it yielded some of his best work to date: 2016’s Loose Canon Vol. 3 (LCV3) was Canon’s triumphant victory lap and proof that neither heights nor depths, nor anything else would take away his faith in God or skills on the mic; he was and is a lyrical Usain Bolt who can rap laps around every artist he is paired with.
An album title like Home might trick you to thinking that Canon stays in his comfort zone, i.e. making songs that flex his effortless double-time flow. Yet thankfully, Home is anything but a safe listen. From its opening bars to closing cadences, Canon amazingly and simultaneously reinvents himself while remaining true to who he is (a constant theme throughout the album) while letting his experimental side shine. While some of the hooks can get repetitive and the latter half of the project is not as ground-breaking as the first, Home is a fierce, potent, and vibrant offering from the emcee and is a testament of where Canon has come from as much as a precursor to how far he is going to go. As Vin Diesel says in Furious 7, “this time it ain’t about just being fast.”
Canon scraps anything in the way of a traditional intro and kicks off the album with a bang: “Focus” has Canon spit over a minimalist beat with no hook and he covers a variety of topics, rapping “Actions to move from my past, I am not sorry / I cannot fake who I am, not even partly” before ending unashamedly with the manifesto that “If you cannot swallow His word, then this is not for you.” More importantly, though, the track introduces a recurring component throughout Home: a beat switch. Midway through the track, Canon warps his vocals to sound ominous and commanding which makes you want to listen to his words as fast as you can before the track ends.
Beat switches are a tricky matter because while they keep things interesting, they risk running cohesion or flow of a song. But the way Canon uses them makes each track seem cinematic. The Cardec produced “Flex” unfolds like a three-act play and is an album highlight: the first part is your typical trap fanfare with nobigdyl. delivering a solid verse, placing his lyrics to match right when the drums hit (“Indie Tribe the house, RMG the Senate”) while the second has hook master Byron Juane and surprisingly Canon himself sing the chorus together over a warmer piano beat, before Canon brings the track home, rapping about feeling content and blessed right where God has him, boasting “I know the maker, you just know designs.” By the end of the track, you have heard three songs worth of content in one single, but it never feels disjointed.
But have no fear; for those who want more of the “old Canon”, he ensures bangers are in no short supply: on “Pacman” he and Aaron Cole absolutely chomp up the beat. Canon premieres his signature double-time flow and the combination with Cardec’s production does not disappoint. Likewise, “Bammm” miraculously juggles the talents of the guests that appear on it while “Push Thru” bristles with energy and ardor. However, because these tracks are more or less placed back-to-back, their repetitive hooks are painfully evident: they usually consist of Canon repeating the name of the song a handful of times. It is evident that he has fun making these records (and it comes so naturally to him) and it would benefit to channel the same creativity of the earlier part of the album to these hits.
Likewise, just as Canon pushes himself to his limits, he encourages his guests to do the same and modifies the track they are on to complement their strengths, whether that means stripping the beat back and letting Tony Tillman’s mind-bending rhymes shine on “Ain’t Gotta Love Me” or trading lines with CASS and letting her voice do the heavy-lifting for the latter part of “We Gon Make It”.
Canon could have easily churned out an album full of hard-hitting turn-up records wrapped up in inspirational messages and I would not have complained. Yet to our benefit, rather than settling solely for what is comfortable, he branched out and pushed himself as a creative; Home is the hard-earned result of an emcee whose contentment is found fully in Christ. This comfort is what ultimately frees him to experiment and craft an album that is equal parts nuanced and introspective without skipping out on the fun. It is one thing to have good intentions, but to execute them well is another thing entirely; this is just another facet that Canon does masterfully. Truly, amongst Canon’s catalog, there truly is no place, or should I say project, like Home.