You cannot underestimate just how powerful a tool YouTube is. For the past year I have regularly seen a so-called “Featured Video” appear in the top right of ANY video I was watching, a video of Gavlyn’s “This Is What I Do”. Either her label has some connections at YouTube, or Gavlyn is on everybody’s lips – at the time of writing that video has over five million views. Taken alone, “This Is What I Do” is unremarkable hip hop. A disjointed flow and blasé lyrics, along with a masculine, female voice (if that doesn’t make sense – listen to Eternia) would have many fans clicking on the next YouTube link. Yet, when coupled with a video of a gap-toothed woman of Oriental heritage – rapping through the streets of Los Angeles becomes strangely enthralling.

“From the Art” is full of average production from the likes of Vokab, Cakes and DJ Limegreen. The aforementioned “This Is What I Do” is probably the weakest track on the record, sounding as generic as the title suggests. In fact the whole album reads like a list of vague hip hop song names: “Set It”, “Make My Move”, “Let It Go”. That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed songs with clichéd names, but coupled with equally generic verses that don’t provide any personal stories, any background or even some wordplay to add depth, “From the Art” is (for the most part) Gavlyn rapping about rapping.

That’s not to say the album is completely redundant. If you enjoy cuts on your hooks, Gavlyn ensures they appear on EVERY song. Personally I find scratched hooks can help bring life to the most mundane beat, and DJ Lord Ron’s performance on “Stepoff” is a fine example of this. But it also highlights how limited Gavlyn is in her approach to song writing. When she does give the turntables a rest, we are treated to the nastiness of “Survive”. With a relatively deep voice, and no attempt to sing (prolonged rapping is not singing) it’s a let-down, especially when the beat supplied by EQ is a strange concoction of horns and strings that somehow works with quick-fire drums. “Let It Go” sees Dye provide some improved crooning but is usurped by scratching anyway.

After so many listens, Gavlyn’s tones do become easier to listen to, but her lyrics just aren’t of the standard to ensure the effort you put in is worthwhile. Rare moments of niceness come in the guise of “No Worries”, a thumping track bolstered by the intense presence of Dye, and “Blown Away” possesses a dope instrumental from Think, but just the scratched rhymes from Common and Nas blow Gavlyn and RawLegit away. Regardless of the lyrical performance, production throughout the rest of “From the Art” is relatively bland, East Coast fodder from producers with too many DJ Premier posters in their bedrooms.

With a name like Gavlyn, the ladyboy image is perhaps a stereotype too far, yet Gavlyn’s lack of emotion and unremarkable performance isn’t worthy of the admission fee. Throughout “From the Art” she demonstrates that regardless of her sex, identity or background, she just isn’t that interesting to spend time with. It’s admirable that her uniqueness isn’t dwelled upon or used as a gimmick, but it also leaves this album with a ton of forgettable rhymes from somebody who from her passion at least, has more to offer.

Gavlyn :: From the Art