Vodka and Rum? Hell yeah! When I first saw the cover for this mixtape, I thought this was going to be a collection of songs about getting hammered and living to tell the tale. Perhaps that’s just my Absolut and Bacardi swiggin’ twisted way of looking at things though. I shook off the thought and started going over the press release to read that Fly Gypsy is made of Jamaican-born emcee Kowboy Kom and Russian-born Alexei Jendayi. From there it seemed to click for me: Jamaican rum and Russian vodka. Resisting the urge to hit up the local liquor store for a few bottles of Appleton Estates and Stolichnaya, I hoped that the libations weren’t necessary to listen to this mixtape.
One of the first things I noticed was that there were a lot of features on the tracklisting. The majority of them aren’t “features” in the traditional sense, but more or less lifted verses that were added to the Fly Gypsy songs. Think about all the tracks 2Pac has appeared on since he passed. As a matter of fact, Pac shows up on two tracks here. It’s not a bad thing, as with the right production in place, these songs can be masterpieces. Things get off to a decent start with the Earth, Wind & Fire inspired, “Reasons” which borrows Kanye West’s verse from Pharrell’s “Number One”, and “Heatwave”. The latter has a 60’s feel to it while still remaining grounded in modern hip-hop. “Saturday Night Fever” samples vocals from Kanye West and Wyclef Jean. It’s lighthearted and easy to listen to, as is the majority of the material on the mixtape. However, at certain points, Fly Gypsy finds itself tackling heavier topics on songs like “Come Free Your People” and “Imagination”. David James croons over the track while Nas and 2Pac add inspirational verses. Kowboy’s verse addresses some of the doubts and concerns facing President Obama as he raps:
“I thought I saw, I thought I was a puddy-tat
With a gat, pointed at his hat
Ready to push it back
I thought it was Obama they was shootin’ at
For Michelle and his daughters, I hope that never happens
With every round of applause, there could’ve been some clappin’
Who woulda been cryin’, who woulda been laughin’
Cause they can’t see America being run by a Black man
Republican or Democrat man
If only Martin and Malcolm, God rest their souls
After all of their marchin’, what a sight to behold
They didn’t get to be old, they will never be old
They probably runnin’ up in Heaven two-steppin’ on gold
Maybe he sold his soul to the highest bidder
Step right up, who wanna buy this nigga, he the brightest nigga
Graduated top of the plantation
Is this Obama-nation or just my imagination?”
A sample of Jose Feliciano’s rendition of “Light My Fire” accentuates “Wildflower”, the story of a mistreated and misunderstood woman who’s both easy and hard to love at the same time. The following song, “Look For You”, while not a direct continuation, touches on a similar subject, as Kowboy explains how she “had good ingredients, but she wasn’t the recipe”. The lighthearted goodness returns with “Block Rockin” which features Chemical Brothers, Busta Rhymes, and Lauryn Hill. I guess Fly Gypsy wants to see L-Boogie back on the scene as much as anyone else. The mixtape closes out with “Interview” which samples 2Pac’s verse from “Smile”.
Overall, FG does a good job of choosing lyrics to sample that actually stay on track and fit the beat. There’s been so many times where it’s painstakingly obvious that the person was just thrown on the track for the sole purpose of saying they were there. Under normal conditions, I wouldn’t even think of mixing vodka and rum, unless it was in a Long Island iced tea, but it works here. Alexei’s production and Kowboy Kom’s seemingly effortless flow make for a good drink that isn’t too soft and isn’t too hard either. Bottoms up.