Webster’s dictionary defines the word “appetizer” as ‘a food or drink that stimulates the appetite and is usually served before a meal. Something that stimulates a desire for more.’ If you go to a restaurant, you order buffalo wings or shrimp before your Porterhouse steak is served. If you patronize a movie theater, you see upcoming film trailers before the feature presentation. If you attend a music concert, you get the opening act before you see the headliner. It’s basically a preview before the main show. While a preview’s purpose is to get one excited, that accomplishment is dependent on how strong the preview is presented. How many times have we heard an artist release his first single, watch it gain an incredible buzz, only for the album its included on to be a complete and utter disappointment? Lots of times, in my case. Two things changed that, though: MP3 file sharing and the market for extended plays. The latter is particularly mentioned because it can be released as something of a sampler for the upcoming LP. On “Our Lives Begin”, Finland-based emcee Pete Santos has kept the preview concept paramount in his sphere of importance.
Though composed of only four songs, they each represent some level of improvement musically from Mr. Santos’ 2016 debut, “Riding to the Tune of Time“. Rumor has it that the EP was made on a shoestring budget, but that’s only reflected in the length, not the sonic quality. The production was handled by Finnish producers and Pete sounds more comfortable behind the mic this time. While I maintain that his voice and adult contemporary lyrics remain parallel to west coast emcee Murs, his flow is now less choppy and more relaxed in each bar. Honestly, every track here sounds like it wouldn’t be out of place in either a club-friendly atmosphere or the radio. There’s an airy smoothness on this EP that was lacking on Mr. Santos’ debut.
The opening track “Ew Ahh”, has the title chanted in the hook. Produced by Miika Uusikyla, he layers a soundscape with synth-heavy notes and distorted vocals. Topically, Pete’s lyrics are emblematic of the hip-hop idiom “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop” combined with a sliver of humility. Aron ‘Aatsi’ Onditi both produced and sang the hook on “Our Lives Begin”, a reflective and introspective lyrical journey about where lives end and begin. With lyrics that question the police, struggle, and raising children, not to mention finger snap snares and wistful synths, Pete has an accompanying video that corresponds with the music:
The latter half of the EP begins with “Lando”. The first thing that caught my ear about the track was the AutoTune-assisted chant in the bridge of “Get down, with the get on down; Get up, with the get on up”. Given the nightlife theme of the lyrics, it’s safe to say that this track belongs to the night. The kind of night that’s right to just cruise with the top down or just cutting loose at a club. This track was also produced by Miika Uusikyla, so it’s not surprising that it has some sonic similarities with the EP’s opening track. Berat ‘Becko’ Cimili laces the final track, “Straight Polish”. Featuring gospel singer Granger Simmons, the title of the track doesn’t do the song’s aural luster much justice. This one’s the most polished track on the whole EP. Consisting of a well-sung hook courtesy of Granger, melodic keys and several well-placed synths, this song should’ve been the lead single given how much it sounds like a banger.
Overall, this small sampler was better than Pete’s debut last year. He has grown more as an emcee, as well as in choice of producers too. Lyrically, Pete’s no Rakim or Eminem, but he’s no Lil’ Yachty or Young Thug either. He’s an everyman rapping, which is reflected in the fact that his moniker is actually his government name. You could say that having no gimmick is his gimmick, but a facade like that can be easily seen through and quickly broken down. If “Our Lives Begin” is the start of an improved direction, I’m eager to see what Mr. Santos has in-store for the future.