Bar Exam: Sevin Duce – Pray’d Up Till My Dayz Up (Album)
A One Listen Album Review
Back in 2010-2011, when Sevin Duce spelled his name with a 2, his name was memorable but his rhymes weren’t so much. He’s been around for a minute but early on I couldn’t describe to you any of his performances, nor can I recall any for you right now. In the last year however, Sevin Duce has made a name for himself. In the past calendar year Duce has done a full collaboration album with the artist Sevin, “From The Park To The Palace” and was featured on the lead single “Funk Paddle” from Sevin’s latest solo album, “Rather Die Than Deny.” He’s been on an intriguing trajectory for me, because I’ve heard growth in the perspective he brings to his content as well as his artistry in itself. So when I heard he was releasing a solo album, I had to cop it. Even though it’s (uniquely) only released as a physical copy, I figured I’d give it a shot. Call me old school. It came in the mail yesterday, in a bubble wrap envelope. The CD casing was a plastic sleeve, and it’s a plain ol’ compact disc. I don’t own a CD Player, except for in my car. So this bar exam will be a bit different. I listened to the album while driving and recording voice memos as the album played. Below is the transcription of my thoughts. Enjoy!
…Now to find a CD player. 😬 pic.twitter.com/D4k2zUG7jF
— Luc DiMarzio (@LucDiMarzio) August 24, 2018
First track is entitled “Smoke.” The song begins with what sounds like a music box and Sevin Duce is talking over it. Once the beat drops we’re good to go. The beat is constructed well. There’s some orchestration layered in and a nice pulsating synth that has a lot of room around it. Duce’s flow is locked in tight to the cadence of the beat. “Tied in with the body but I need more knots” The end of the first verse is punchline-heavy and I really like what he’s doing, but on the second verse he loses me. As far as train of thought, I’m not sure I’m really following him. He seems to just be listing things that rhyme here rather than driving towards a certain point. As an intro this works, it sets up the sound of the album, but as far as the complete package of a song it’s below the bar for me.
Track two is called “Supposed 2.” At the top of this tune are some icey synths, and some vocal samples saying “yeah.” It takes awhile for this intro to progress. “I’m gon’ ride like I’m supposed to no matter what it cost ain’t gon’ change a thing.” The beat comes in at a simple pace. There’s a lot of room here for the artists to explore. Sevin is on the hook and takes the first verse. I’m not sure in recent memory I’ve heard him switch back and forth from bars to melodies, so this is a nice surprise. Duce takes the second verse and beats it up. He’s got a lot of punchlines in his tool belt that he likes to show off. I like the flow and he’s on point here. For the second and the third verse he rattles off countless similes and metaphors, and it’s a strong performance from Duce here. The beat leaves a lot to be desired, so all in all this track is at the bar.
Moving on to track three, “4eva Mobn” it’s got a Kenny G-like saxophone sample with an R&B vibe here at the top. This progresses into more of a G-Funk vibe, with some nasty synth bass lines underneath everything. It’s really laid back. Duce is actually more abrasive on this track at the beginning than I would like. He’s riding the front of the beat and not letting the chilled out feel compliment anything he’s doing. Once he hits the hook though he’s in full stride, and he smooths out his performance a touch. He still rolls into verse two with a rapid fire flow, but now feels a little more aware of how the track sounds. “Stay equipped with more souls than a clan of ants” In these first three tracks, Duce is speaking a lot about spiritual warfare. He’s coming straight at the devil and he doesn’t care. Once my ears adjusted to how Duce decided to come at this track, I began to really appreciate it for what it is. This one is slightly above the bar.
“Forever mobbin keep it holy is a must do/I keep two fingers tucked like they stuck glue/If you ain’t Christ rellie I don’t trust you/But the job is to show them haters they need love too”
The Sweet Spot
Track four is the title track, “Pray’d Up.” From the beginning we hear some strings plucking. “Tell the devil it ain’t safe around here.” He’s back on the spiritual warfare tip. The beat here is probably the best on the album so far. It changes and adds layers as it goes. I’m getting a feeling that Duce is known for punchlines. Once again he’s very punchline heavy and it’s definitely a strong trait for a writer to have. “Prayed up till my days up/whole life I done gave up.” Sevin Duce is tenacious on this track, and right now I’d say this is his best performance yet. This one’s above the bar.
Track five is “I Need U” and it starts with some really deep synth washes and some chimes adding color. I will point out that Duce doesn’t seem to be too versatile with his flows. He seems to be a natural with the pen though. I can’t tell you how many punchlines, metaphors, similes he’s dropping with zero effort. This second verse is off the chain. Topically it’s on point too. When the world is cold, when everything seems lost, it’s good to have perspective and know that we need a Savior.
The next one is track six, “Streets Need Changed” featuring Sevin.
“The streets need change/not pennies and colas/where we from die young not getting older/the hood needs mo’ fathers less soldiers/I just pray they see the light before it’s over.”
This is another tune with that G-Funk vibe to it, that 90’s west coast gangster rap. I feel like this music reminds me of Tha Dogg Pound. The hook here is catchy, it’s on point, keeping the theme going. Duce’s first verse is once again masterful at bringing out these punchlines. This is another fire track, and I’d say it’s better than the title track. [new favorite song] These last few songs have been a great stretch. We’re in the sweet spot.
“So close to hell’s flames they were tanning me”
“Teach 1” is featuring Sevin, Marcel Jackson and Bazooka. Marcel is here at the top, there’s acoustic guitars laying a nice bed, and Sevin jumps in on it without a beat. It’s a JAM. “Survival of the thuggest/Since little nuggets we were gutter bred” Marcel’s hook here is absolutely butter. Full of soul and passion, and the way he comes at it is super nice. Duce drops the second verse. The rhyme scheme is full of “ation” rhymes. It’s good but it feels familiar. The perspective of this song seems to be from an outsider in some instances. This song tackles topics as outsiders picking apart the culture. “This is what is broken, this is messed up, and this is how it can be fixed.” It’s a different move from the typical first-person perspective prevalent in HOGMOB tracks. Bazooka bats cleanup and his flow is nice as well. Above the bar.
The final track is “Glory Your Name.” For the first time on this whole project I feel like Duce has finally switched up his flow. This is a really laid back instrumental with a synth bed underneath it. Duce is real personable here, he’s really chilled out and vibing with the beat. Marcel is on the hook here. “Whatever it takes, glory Your Name.” There’s an echo on this hook that sounds like Sevin’s voice. Duce closes out the album with a prayer asking that God would give him the voice to speak to the masses, and that we as Christians would have the power to fight evil. It’s a very solid at-the-bar ending to an all around solid project.
I notice so much growth on this album. Since “From The Park To The Palace” I feel like Duce has significantly stepped his game up. Sometimes the craft becomes sharper with more reps. I think this is the case for Sevin Duce here. This is definitely a memorable album for me, from the unique “physical copy only” release, to the impressive combinations of punchlines throughout. His talent and passion really make him soar through these 8 tracks, but in reality the beats are weighing him down. Other than that, I really didn’t feel a slump, but with some better beats and a more on point stream of consciousness, Duce may find the perfect formula in the future.