November 28, 2012

Record Reactions – Shwayze, Shwayzed And Confused EP

Malibu-based pop-rapper Shwayze started out with all the potential in the world. His first full-length LP, Shwayze, set the music scene ablaze with its provocative mix of sunny California attitudes with hip-hop and rap. The record’s clear, relaxed aesthetic and beaming mood perfectly aligned with a music public that was ready for a change of atmosphere.

But soon after his success, for reasons yet unexplained, Shwayze squandered that potential. After making his money with one style, the style he excelled at, Shwayze threw out an uninspired record that took a complete 180-degree turn in style and substance. This move left most of the music industry and Shwayze’s fan base scratching their heads in puzzlement. It hasn’t all been downhill from there, but there seems to be a downward trend developing.

Shwayze never had profound intentions or some kind of insider secret to achieve success – he was just a silly kid who knew his way around a beat. And you can’t blame the man for progressing, or trying to become a better artist by evolving his sound.

But, man, do I miss the old Shwayze.

What made that first record such a refreshing, energizing listen was its originality. In 2008, in the heyday of Lil Wayne and T.I. and their calculated girls/money/swag/look-at-how-awesome-I-am rap, came a rapper who wasn’t all about self-promotion and bragging. All Shwayze cared to do was post up under a palm tree and hum to himself. And, what’s more, the kid was talented.

Shwayze, by some act of fate, found Cisco Adler, and paired with him for the recording of his first full-length record. In place of air horns and hype men, Adler crafted a collection of breezy, bright melodies for Shwayze to rap over. The result was almost an instant classic right out of the gate.

Ghost is just standard hip-pop fare, but not even good hip-pop. It sounds like anything you could hear from even the most lowbrow of rappers. In the relative world of Shwayze’s potential and aptitude for creating high-quality, enjoyable songs, Ghost is an abomination.

In terms of Shwayze’s supposed progressions back to the level of his highest quality work, Ghost, and the rest of the EP for that matter, represent three huge steps backward. What little ground was made up with last year’s solid release from the duo, Island in the Sun, was lost with this EP, especially if the EP is a preview of what is to come from Shwayze’s upcoming full-length album.

Shwayze was never supposed to make obnoxious, fat-bass club bangers. He was supposed to chill in the sun while his peers wasted their time making that music.

“West Coast Party” is an example of the now-standard Shwayze track. It’s not awful, but it doesn’t have a prevailing quality that saves the song from mediocrity. It’s just passable. The song starts out okay, but as soon as it enters the chorus, supercharged with tinny little electric guitars and too-energetic drums, any aesthetic is lost in the pursuit for club bangers.

“Better Than Most Loves” starts out more promising, for about 10 seconds. Adler’s familiar voice starts out the track with an interesting melody line. But after a few bars, his voice is completely cut out in favor of a poppy little hip-hop beat with only the slightest semblance of the melody that was just introduced. Adler returns with his melody sporadically throughout the track, but there is no cohesion. Rather, the two parts just stumble around, never gelling together. This could be a result of poor production, but it sounds more like a mistake in the initial composition of the song. That’s more worrisome.

If this EP has done me any good, it’s reminded me to go back and listen to Shwayze again. At least there’s that. If you’re an old fan, maybe give this album a listen or two and see if you can stomach it. But if you’re new to Shwayze, just stick to the old stuff. You’ll be happier.

What made Shwayze so good was that he differentiated himself from the rest of the rap community. He songs broke through the static. But Shwayze has lost all of that. Perhaps this music wouldn’t be so bad if there weren’t a hundred other rappers making the exact same music. But they are. The monotony is paralyzing. And it seems that, with every song, he’s trying to become more and more like those other rappers. He’s moving in the wrong direction.

And the worst part is, he seems to have no idea.


Image Credit: Shwayze

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