Critic’s Corner: J. Reyez – One Step Closer

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J. Reyez is a Hip-Hop artist representing Toronto, Canada and has garnered a fair amount of online buzz. If anything, I can tell he’s a hard working dude cause he’s constantly putting out new videos & music, producing, performing and more. However I’ve only had a chance to peep a couple of his videos on youtube and haven’t heard much of his recorded work. So when I saw that he had released a free mixtape for DL I thought it’d be a good opportunity to hear a little more and see what this kid’s about. So how did ‘One Step Closer’ fare?

Find out after the jump!

The Mind’s Motivation ft. Chris Jackson – I liked this track.  It’s a good slow hip hop/r&b song about money and how it affects lives. The verses aren’t quite as polished as the chorus but it’s only because Chris sounded great and added a lot of flavor. A pretty good way to kick off the mixtape.

Bright as the Stars – The beat has a great foundation but could have been a lot more hard hitting. As a result the song is also solid but could have been a lot stronger as well. I think its because the drums are way too weak on this one. It’s lacking “oomph”. JR’s verses are solid but unfortunately the instrumental just sounds incomplete. I would like to hear this one retooled with harder drums and maybe some scratching on the hook. Also, I have no idea why they let the beat ride empty for the last minute.

No More ft Chris Jackson – In direct contrast to his contribution on ‘The Mind’s Motivation’ Chris actually breaks this song instead of making it. JR spits w/ a great flow that rides the beat well but Chris on the hook just doesn’t blend well. I think he’s actually a little off key and the song is filled with unnecessary runs. The fact that Chris is given an entire verse to sing doesn’t help either. I liked the way J flipped it conceptually, telling two sides to the same story, but I really wish the singing was more polished because it makes a good song sound mediocre.

Get It Now – I think this was an attempt at a street anthem but the results are mixed. The beat is pretty decent, it kinda remains me of Fat Joe’s ‘Make it Rain’. Overall J does an OK job and the hook is kinda catchy. Unfortunuately the track just seems too unoriginal and a bit contrived.

She Just Wanna Dance – This a remix of the Trey Songz track with J. Reyez jumping on and contributing a verse. JR does a pretty good job of adapting to the track and fits very well with the song. I was kind of impressed.

Shoe Box Money – One of my pet peeves in Hip-Hop songs are hooks made up of annoying vocal samples. Unfortunately this song does exactly that. Hook aside, the beat sounds real sinister and I like J’s narrative on his experiences as a youth but the song feels like it’s missing something as a whole.  I hate the hook but overall I can’t say this is a bad track.

That’s Okay With Me – It’s starting to appear that J. Reyez tends to fit better on the softer/slower beats. The production is pretty decent as J pulls double duty and puts together a pretty good love track. JR’s delivery fits these tracks well because there is a certain amount of earnestness in his voice. It translates well to songs that are introspective in nature.  The chorus is a little thin but its not that big a deal.

Best I Ever Had – As opposed to ‘She Just Wanna Dance’, this was not a great remix. J really doesn’t adapt quite as well here and sounds very out of place. He just didn’t portray enough stylized cool swagger to pull it off. Plus it doesn’t help that the original track is a pretty big hit so there was a lot to live up to. J’s contribution really comes off as messy and takes away from the charm of the original.

How She Moves ft Chris Jackson – This was a fair attempt at a club banger. Once again the beat really reminds me of something Fat Joe would jump on. Chris does an OK job here but I can’t say I’m crazy about his parts. I have a feeling this might be one of those songs that sound better live than recorded because there just isn’t enough energy on this one.

Crying – The monologues at the beginning of the tracks are kind of getting tiring at this point. I thought the song was pretty decent and it kind of has an old school Eminem feel to the song that reminds me of ‘Stan’. I like the dynamic of the emotionally charged delivery in contrast to the haunting, soft instrumental. My only real complaint is that I was not feeling the drum sounds.

Alone With You – I liked the beat here. The song is pretty catchy but I kind wish he used a singer on the hook. Even still, this is a pretty enjoyable track. It also supports the theory that J fits the r&b tracks better. The track isn’t especially unique but it’s got a good groove to it.

Im The – This song has a great instrumental. JR rides it well although he could have used more energy at times. The song is one of those boastful hip-hop tracks and J. Reyez is convincing for the most part. The beat switch up in the middle could have transitioned a little smoother but it wasn’t too distracting. His deliv really picks up in the 2nd half though but the song ends too abruptly and the overall structure of the track is kind of confusing.

Oh No ft Kody Ervin & Raedelz – With this song JR has a track that almostreaches banger status. The featuring MC’s spit with great energy and it’s something J could learn to emulate. The instrumental could have used some more low end because it really doesn’t have the bass it should.

Over Your Head ft Dalena – All I can say is this song was great in concept but terrible in execution. Dalena has a good tone that really fits this style of song but the girl could not hit those notes. She kept missing the key like a typo. I really wished the song was laid down better because it could have been a pretty catchy r&b song. However Dalena’s singing is pretty painful sometimes and makes this song unlistenable. Just to be sure I wasn’t trippin I asked several others what they thought about the singing and everybody cringed. A shame because I think with some minor adjustments Dalena would have sounded a lot better.

Nothing Left ft Chris Jackson – This track suffers a very similar fate as the one before it. The singing hurts the track, but i liked the idea. Chris does OK on the core melody, but his runs are all over the place. JR did well but the song would have been a lot stronger with better vocals.

Suffocate ft Chris Jackson – With a ne-yo style of beat JR & Chris team up again to make a pretty decent track. In fact I really liked the instrumental. Chris is still a little hit or miss on some parts but this song was still much better executed than some of the other tracks he was on. A pretty good track.

U Know the Name – The instrumental really reminds me of Xzibit’s ‘Concetrate’. The drums are pretty nice here but the song is merely above average. The hook is very average and once again it seems like JR doesn’t quite have the energy or style to pull off the song perfectly. He does a fair job but it’s not quite there.

Northside – I appreciate the fact J. Reyez is trying to create an anthem for the people up North but the song comes off as kind of played. Like many of the other songs on this mixtape, this one isn’t bad but it really doesn’t stand out.

Conclusion:
Based on what I’ve seen from J. Reyez’s videos and heard from this mixtape, it appears that he is a jack of all trades but master of none. Most of what JR releases seem to always be fairly decent but never amazing. While on one hand I have to respect him and his grind because as a young artist he is completely self sufficient but it makes me wonder what could have been if he was able to concentrate his creative energy on only his music. From a technical sonic stand point, J. Reyez did a good job mixing down and putting together a pretty good sounding mixtape. Lyrically J didn’t blow my mind, but his honest delivery and easy flow is mostly enjoyable and fits the slower/softer songs very well. The harder tracks are a little harder to enjoy as they don’t have the impact he was probably looking for. By far the weakest part of this mixtape were the r&b vocals. Chris Jackson sounded great on the first track, but the rest of his contributions ranged from bad to OK. Dalena’s song ended up sounding terrible in my opinion when it could have been so much better. At 18 tracks long, I began to tire of the mixtape towards the end because there really wasn’t enough that I truly enjoyed. Most of the tracks were simply middle of the road. Had the r&b tracks been more vocally on point, I probably would have bumped up the score an entire point but as is they weigh down the songs that could have carried the mixtape. As a free download it can’t hurt to give this one a listen, and I’m sure some of you may enjoy it more than I did but I can’t say I was too impressed with this release.

Must Listen: The Mind’s Motivation, That’s Okay With Me, Alone With You

a-Tunes Score: 6.5/10

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