After the great success of Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco and others from the Midwestern hip-hop breeding ground Chicago, rap fans start looking for other untapped talent from the area. Seel Fresh made a name for himself in the streets of Chi-town due to his graffiti marking skills. KRS-One called graffiti art one of major elements of hip-hop music, but that does not necessarily mean that one is innately going to transfer their abilities from one to the other.
Seel has the right idea in tapping into a staple of the local area underground, in production team, The Molemen. This idea gives Fresh the potential to gather a slew of healthy beats for a nominal feel in comparison to more mainstream beatmakers. This is a natural progression from his last album, "Trife Life," from 2006 which featured collaborations with Thirstin Howl III, Rack-Lo and Juice.
As the listener, you will soon get a strong grasp of Fresh's style--a throwback to 90's with many boom bap beats and a simple but direct rhyme scheme.
The introductory track, to the contrary, has a more aggressive drum beat and screwed and chopped element to it. Perhaps it is a little too self-indulgent to have an opening track that states repetitively, "my name is famous in the streets, in the streets," especially as a relatively unknown emcee from a national perspective. The main concern here is that this is one of the two tracks self-produced, so this may be a better representation to his true vision.
"Rock That" finds Seel Fresh in a groove more similar to much of the rest of the LP as he even gives ode to the type of material he derives his own from with the line, "Seel Fresh and Rapstar I.N.C./From now 'til infinity like it's '93." This gives the listener an affirmation that he is not just blowing smoke, but refreshingly has a great respect for various artists like Souls of Mischief that paved the way for him. Further, the chorus praises his art form when he chants, "There ain't nothing like hip-hop music!" Later, "Prosper (H.I.P.H.O.P)" follows a very similar path as well as "Keep It Movin'," which samples classic Method Man.
Seel manages to keep things Fresh (pardon the pun) by diversifying the subject matter of his tracks. There are a few that recycle the standard of underground rap, which is songs showing the artists' own enthusiasm for the pureness of the music. Here, he comes correct with "Wrong Destination," a track laced with sporadic piano keys compliments of Panik (of the Molemen) and an ominous tone that lends to the pessimistic nature of the song. It is a storytelling joint about trying to choose the right paths in life. Again, Panik gives Seel a solid beat to work with on "Family/Filz One" which is in stark contrast to "Wrong Destination," being a celebratory song about how his family keeps him sane. Both "Came a Long Way" and "Know About Me" are joints about personal progression in making his name in the rap game. "Came a Long Way" is a dramatic beat that sounds like something Just Blaze would save for Hova. Whereas, "Know About Me" has a very original Louie Armstrong-inspired beat, chock full of early twentieth century horns. There are very different approaches to the same idea back-to-back.
There is a problem with inconsistency here though, as some of the material does not measure up, such as the aforementioned opener "Street Famous," the boredom-inducing "I Think She Might Be," and the sluggish "Old Chicago," which also exasperates on his come up; except this time it focuses more on his childhood, rather than his vocation as a rapper. The second issue many listeners will have is that, while the subject matter and production is varied enough, Fresh's rap flow is too average and repetitive.
"Looking at the fork in the road going straight
How I've been going for awhile but so far it's been going straight
Never mind specifics I'm hear to get lifted
Go back and study with thirst kid, I'm gifted
See I ain't no joke so check out my melody
Every single day of my life is felony
I can't have that gotta flip it like flapjacks
Me and PNS like Rick Rubin and Anthrax
Bring the noise like a fire drill
Cooking crack in the game don't require skill
Yea I'm breaking the rules
Lacing with jewels
Cuz I feel the current occupation is for fools
I'm going to take them to school
With today I do
Cuz no matter how you move someone will be hating on you
You a little stronger recipe to grind with this
Classic Reeboks kicks low from '96"
The metaphors are far from stunning and the references are not particularly enlightening, and this is a proper representation of his bars. In fact, the second verse on this particular song is far weaker.
Still, there is plenty to admire about the featured artist. He pays proper homage to some great source material as previously mention and more greatly expounded upon in hearing his self-produced "Problems," which is nearly a direct sample from the AZ track of the same name. Some might call him a biter that does not have an identity of his own, and to some extent he has not established it; however, it is unfair to say that he is anything but a true hip-hop head trying to do his own thing.
Many rap fans are on a never-ending quest to discover "the next big thing," and are specifically looking into areas like Chicago which has paid huge dividends in progressing hip-hop as of late. While I wouldn't consider Seel Fresh the future, I would consider him a suitable throwback to 90's rap, which was a simpler time when the musicians were doing it for the pure fun of it.
Music Vibes: 7.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 6 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 6.5 of 10
Originally posted: November 4, 2008