Many moons ago the criminally underrated high exalted Don Bishop Agallah suggested the mixtape is the album. Fast forward nearly a decade later and the industry has certainly embraced 8-Off’s approach. As we turn the corner on the first quarter, Reakwon’s “Shaolin Vs.Wu-Tang” is the only official full-length album that stands among the elite 2011 releases. This year’s other notable projects have been distributed exclusively through Mediafire Records. In the digital age mixtapes lacking focus and original production are likely to go in one ear, out the other, and subsequently into the recycle bin (ask Pusha T).
Willie the Kid’s latest effort matches the towering quality of Agallah’s debut solo mixtape, and raises it a beautifully executed central theme. Although extended metaphors involving high altitudes and aircrafts have admittedly been run into the ground by many of Willie’s peers, “The Fly 2” actually lives up to its title, as the project is largely an exhibition of acute skill and craftsmanship. As one would expect the music is wrapped around several excerpts from the 1989 film of the same title, which accentuates the spooky atmosphere already present in much of the tape’s production.
In true science fiction thriller fashion, “The Fly 2” deliberately gets off to a leisurely start. The intro is followed by the tape’s most leaden offerings—“Al B Sure Dart” and “Dragon Fly”—making for an unconventional sequencing considering fans are accustomed to artists swinging hay-makers in the first round. However, the ensuing tracks experience a sharp uptick in pace and intensity, never returning to the initial state of calm until the outro.
One of Willie’s strongest assets is his ability to convey genuine earnestness. His lyrics often reflect the thoughts of an overly analytical individual. “Die Free” is essentially a pep-talk addressed to himself, attempting to inspire ambition and justify his current direction. When Martin Brundle isn’t wrestling with his self-conscience, he’s rapping really, really well. His emphasis on alliteration rivals Rick Ross, while the delivery echoes a heavy Wu-Tang influence (especially Cappadonna) when he inserts abrupt halts mid bar, only to continue traveling in a different direction without missing a beat.
Willie’s technical prowess highlights the project’s lone misstep. While in the past he’s been outclassed by the likes of Lil Wayne, Freeway, Nas, and Scarface, most of his recent collaborators haven’t contributed anything noteworthy enough to warrant retention. Outside of Styles P and Alchemist, “The Fly 2” would have benefited from replacing the away team with the home team.
“The Fly 2” is a remarkably cohesive piece of work, yet it’s failed to garner the level of critical acclaim bestowed on Willie’s contemporaries. It will be interesting to see what measures The Embassy take to drum up enthusiasm from the blogosphere. From what I understand we’re suckers for tube socks and ridiculously inefficient acronyms.