The first review I ever did for RapReviews was of "Forever's Never Really That Long" - an LP by a young emcee named Zero Star from Columbus, Ohio, who demonstrated great promise with the backing of producer Blueprint. It was a solid contribution to the underground hip-hop scene. A couple years removed from that quietly kept album, Zero is back with an independently released EP which aims to continue his progress towards hip-hop's summit. "Are We There Yet?" Zero asks eagerly of that proposition... we'll see.
"Are We There Yet?" is a five-track effort that offers a similar soulful vibe to his previous LP, but sans Blueprint. When an emcee and producer have such great chemistry it is always a scary proposition to deconstruct that association, yet Zero seems to have found a duo of producers that continue his proud purist vision in K81 and Latimore Platz. Following is a track-by-track breakdown of what this EP brings to the table.
Track 1: Intro (Everybody)
The opener kicks off with a silky, laid back backdrop, produced by K81, which is soon accompanied by Zero Star's repetitive murmuring of the word "everybody." The beat builds with the addition of a snappy snare drum as the emcee casually approaches it with some slick rhymes that are a nice introduction, if you haven't heard him spit before. Choice lines such as "You was out all night chasing some bar slut/I was at the crib trying to tighten my bars up" and "Cuz I see like a psychic the future of hip-hop/Ain't really hard to call 'cuz most of it is just shit pop," give you a clear indication of Zero Star's stance. Song Rating: 8 of 10.
Track 2: That's That
While the opener is a nice track, "That's That" steps it up to another level because there is a really strong sense of song structure along with a nice hook, which entices the listener to revisit it:
"They say that you should never ever see
They say that you should never ever breathe
They say that you should never ever sleep
Excuse me young girl, I think I'm going to skydive"
Beyond the rock solid chorus, Star offers some of his most well-executed lines, such as, "If you can't change the motherfuckers around you/ Then change the motherfuckers around you," which add to the entertainment value. This one, also produced by K81, has a nice boom bap appeal to it coupled with some subdued, yet maniacal keys. Zero Star perfectly matches the production with a slightly more aggressive approach. Song rating: 9 of 10.
Track 3: Smile
This joint seems to be musically influenced by J-Dilla's more upbeat productions. Producer Lattimore Platz did a good job with it. It too, has a healthy snare. Then, angelic voices, loop throughout the course of the track. Zero Star rhymes about various positive aspects of life, his childhood, and good music. Another solid cut, but I prefer Star when he is rougher around the edges. Song Rating: 8 of 10.
Track 4: Like Me
"Like Me" amps the listener up from the beginning with it's vocal sample and deep horns. My only complaint here is that the horns, which are the most pronounced sound, are too sporadic. The high-pitched vocal gets repetitive towards the end of the track, but Zero's lyrical prowess is on full display as he cleverly twists and turns words with lines like, "Yeah, I'm fly/I'm high/That's word to the sky/The highest high ain't high when I'm going for mine." His whimsical wordplay is utterly enjoyable as he goes into beast mode. Song Rating: 9 of 10
Track 5: Opposite Day
Though the most clearly conceptual song on the album, the closer "Opposite Day" is probably the weakest addition. Not surprisingly, it's a play on the elementary school game you play in which everything is the opposite of what you say. The distorted guitar-driven beat is harsh and the vocals are forced over the noise created. The idea of Zero Star branching out into these songs that are tied together on one notion is appealing, rather that just straight spitting. He can certainly do better. Song Rating: 6.5 of 10
The version of "Are We There Yet?" submitted also has instrumental versions of each song. The music on this EP release is very nice, so that is a nice perk; yet, Zero Star, who handles all five cuts solo, is really what makes this effort shine so brightly. Zero Star asks "Are We There Yet?" He may not be a well-known emcee, but he is 'there' from a talent perspective. Not just a star - this guy's a supernova.
Music Vibes: 7.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8 of 10
Originally posted: August 25, 2009