European hip-hop definitely has its golden nuggets, but like any buried treasure you just have to know where to look. That’s why when I discovered Moldavian rapper/producer Fresh Sly back in 2011 with his stellar solo effort entitled Quiet Storm, I kept my ear out for the latest and greatest by this one of a kind musician. Brandishing a jazzy mindset and a storybook full of rhymes, Fresh Sly finally returns to the hip-hop scene with a transcendent new record appropriately titled Return2Forever.
With one listen, Return2Forever will leave listeners with a solid idea of Fresh Sly’s style. I assume the whole world of hip-hop recognizes Europe’s attraction to old-school, U.S. hip-hop and how the continent tends to emulate those sounds. Well the same story goes for Fresh Sly when he crafts his music; there’s definitely a vintage, 90s East-coast sound infused into the jazzy samples and funky embellishments utilized on this album. There are also numerable old-school hip-hop samples dropped here and there, both from a record and from Fresh Sly paying homage to the music he grew up on.
About 95% of the album is handled solely by Fresh Sly himself. The lyrics, beats and production are created by the capable emcee and producer, and the solo effort shows its colors on this impressive effort. Lyrically, Fresh Sly likes to deliver his lyrics in a somewhat mellow manner. Not exactly enacting a monotone flow, but surely not boasting the energy of the likes of DMX for example, Sly is exactly as his name says – the rapper flows just as smooth as his beats.
As far as subject matter goes, Fresh Sly keeps it down to earth and personal. From the life he lived as a child to engaging love stories, Fresh Sly knows how to craft a track and draw in listeners’ attention. The emcee also has a knack for some nice hooks paired well with the instrumental’s catchy melody (“Nicole, Nicole” is the perfect example of such).
On the other side of things, the album does have a few shortcomings, although none too devastating. For one, the album may come off as a re-run. The themes played with through the instrumentals feel as though they’ve been employed numerous times before, so listeners may feel as though they’ve heard something like this before, although they quite literally may have never even heard of Fresh Sly before. I attest the album’s lush content, yet the old-school sound may be overplayed to some.
Despite any predispositions to the old-school sound utilized on the album, however, it is not boom-bap and there is a heavy jazz influence, so fans of jazzy hip-hop shall find songs of interest within the boundaries of Return2Forever. Given the chance, Fresh Sly knows how to write a powerful song with truly personal lyrics, although it is easy to understand why some may decide to pass on a track or two. Nonetheless, minus any minute number of tracks, there are some truly fantastic beats, bars and more on this grand, follow-up effort.
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