Saturday, August 16, 2014

P64 - Philadelphia Love Story

More than any other topic in music, failed relationships have been beaten to death, tried and tested, yet still remain insistently present. Above all this, Philadelphia emcee P64 manages to successfully find a way to bring the subject matter into fresh, new light, focusing on the trials and tribulations of his past relationships during the summer of 2013. It's a concept that's been featured on countless songs but never fully invested in an entire piece of work, cohesive enough to warrant the dedication that went into creating it. Surprisingly, rather than dulling the listener with repetition, P64 develops a keen sense of variety within the subject, showing off a range of perspectives, roles, and women he's surrounded himself with in order to see more within himself. However, all this would seamlessly crumble on the merits of the rapper's skill behind the mic since there's only so many ways you can discuss the opposite sex and the attempts many of today's youth go at attaining them. Thankfully P64 upholds this standard, intriguing the listener with his ability to effortlessly glide across many of the mixtape's beats, incorporating rhymes that could easily come from an experienced vet. Philadelphia Love Story is an audacious record that attempts at conveying a ritualized topic whilst simultaneously feeding his unique edge on it, succeeding in many ways, faltering in some. 

An open-mic on a thundering Philadelphia night sets the stage for our rapper to open his heart unto us, revealing his early compulsions and the wake-up call he endured in the form of a face slap. It's an interesting start, one that grabs the listener's attention, already becoming aware that this might not be your prototypical up-and-comers love mixtape. The beats officially kick into gear with Aim{less}, featuring production that floats in the clouds and provides enough space for P64 to strut his lyrical abilities. This is where the rapper's voice and flow works the best, despite the abundance of trap-influenced, bass-heavy bangers centered in the middle of the album. Often times these tracks are cluttered, cramped, and drown out the leader, as such is the case with Love{less}, which suffocates not only the rapper, but the listener with an engulfing bass. It seems as though P64 is still yet unsure of where his voice resonates best; on a light beat that allows his voice the air it needs to breath, or a loud anthem powerful enough to allow him to go all out. Ghostwriter, cuing up RJD2's legendary instrumental of the same name, is a ballsy cut that deserves recognition off brash alone. Even more shocking is the rapper's skill in covering it, a feat not to be ignored. She Needs Me, from Kendrick Lamar's Overly Dedicated, succeeds in much the same way, each example giving P64 the chance to shine, whereas a handful of tracks in the middle (Tiger Lilly, Liar Liar) complicate things by indulging in unneeded excess. 

While the production seems disjointed in fear of remaining stagnant, the lyrical skill and dexterity flourish throughout the tape. Excluding some not-so-hot lines that sprinkle themselves throughout, P64 seems determined to prove how skilled he can be on the mic. He doesn't fall into the 'white-boy syndrome' many have come to call Caucasian's nasally voices that hold them back from serious topics, showing range in vocal simplicity (Simple & Clean) and superfluity (Could It Be You). In fact, his various poetic-like stanzas throughout the record are some of the most entertaining portions, like on the opening to Busride To Ambler and the beginning of Make Up On. It's this latter track, the closer, however that best shows off P64's palate, and may ultimately end up being one of my favorite tracks of the year. An excellently-produced song that exquisitely molds the airiness of the first half with the depth of the second. The chorus and spoken word conclude the story, with the girl he's attempted to reconcile with leaving after one final hug. However the meaning and impact doesn't sink in until the near-two minutes of instrumental draw the record to a close, with swelling instrumentation and synthesizers that soar across the speakers. This is something I'd have liked to see more as well throughout. While his voice isn't annoying in the slightest, the production does need air to breath. Often times the duration of the track meant the duration of his voice, leaving little to no room for the background, which, in some cases, can add an extra layer of emotion to the track, much like the finale does. 

Nitpicking aside, Philadelphia Love Story is an enticing album from an emcee just getting his feet wet, already well prepared for the water. P64 brings immediate enjoyment with his choice of legendary beats, solid new production, and inventive story-telling that carries its own weight throughout a hefty mixtape detailing one topic. I'm curious to see where he takes his career from here, expanding in terms of topics, being more concise with what he chooses to rap on, and pushing his musical-boundaries because I certainly see the potential there. 

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