When Jay-Z recently discussed “new rules” in a Samsung commercial, referring to the internet Hip Hop era as “the wild west”, he was absolutely right. In an era where artists can reach fans at the click of a button, the market has become woefully over-saturated. Some MCs choose to largely stick to one saloon (trap rappers, “swag” rappers, “backpackers”) to build a specific brand. Some others though seem so confused in the midst of the corral that they freeze and end up with no base, trying to appeal to too many people at once. Such appears to be the case with Rico Swain on his debut album “Eye4AnI”
Technically speaking, it’s not a bad album. Rico is a proficient lyricist, capable of ripping off rhyme schemes 8 bars at a time, but outside of the raw ability to put together words that rhyme Swaine is lacking in so many other facets here. This album suffers from all the flaws that befall so many new artists. He uses the same mechanical, somewhat angry delivery throughout the project, sometimes amateurishly tripping over himself for the sake of fitting words into a bar. The wordplay employed is shamefully out of date (a “stack chips like pringles” line can be heard), so much so that it’s capable of hindering the ear’s progression to the next bar.
More damaging than any lyrical/vocal flaw however is the issue that there is really no voice present. There are no grand proclamations, no sonic trademarks, nothing that differentiates this project from the lot of releases in the world. “Who Am I” attempts to lead off the album with an introduction into his character, but it mostly just comes off like another track full of gun threats with an unsteady double time flow. In that sense, perhaps it’s entirely fitting.
It appears Swain made an album full of attempts to get radio play. “Reign on ’em”, complete with a trite “make it rain” chorus is the worst offender, with a faux 808 production that is technically aware but more than anything else basic. “Hello Hey”, with a smooth hook by singer JC is Swaine’s best attempt at catching fire, with airy, radio ready synths, but Swaine ruins the track with an intense delivery that just may scare a female listener away. “I’m Reloaded” features a rough and rugged “no bubblegum ass rap, no dance tracks” warning which may have served purpose if it wasn’t on an album made multiple attempts to
This album just isn’t it. Swain possesses a lyrical ability more suited towards success in the grimey knuckled, underground realm (evidenced by the bluesy, introspective “Dreamin’”), but his attempts to futilely chase mainstream acceptance results with a lot of swings and misses. Hopefully his next project will be more focused as the dust clears and his game plan becomes more apparent.