There is a category of hip hop records dealing with the subject of alcohol and drug addiction. These records can express vividly the paradox of hedonism, being too fun to quit and too damaging to continue. I Feel Like Dying by Lil Wayne and Starting Over by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are noteworthy examples. The appeal of these songs is clear: Fans experiencing similar personal challenges can find comfort and strength in their idols’ testimonies, and the artists help others to find their own way out of the darkness.
Hip hop musician, rapper and lyricist B-Eazy has released an album of this kind in partnership with Bout Dat Online, the media production company working with at-risk young people, engaging and supporting them through a variety of community initiatives. Made In Meriden is, in B-Eazy’s words, ‘a look back on the years 2010-2012 when I was heavily into drink and drugs, battling depression, my girlfriend left me and I’d just became a parent for the first time. It looks at the transition from losing everything to turning my life around and getting it all back. A pretty deep project.’
For the project, B-Eazy has mobilised an impressive team of rappers and producers giving the ten-song set a pleasingly collective feel. Standout features include Verse 1 and JimiDkiD on One Too Many, a frank report from the brink of a wasted weekend. The success of these verses with imagery of numbed resignation and portents of disease, squandered talent, and physical aggravation is in the understated delivery.
Brainwashed with Lloyd Luther and Verse 1 launches from a point of isolated anguish to a dizzying wide-angle zoom taking in a landscape in which governments and media organisations conspire to keep people hooked on lies. This pivotal track provides dystopian context with unflinching clarity, and in Luther’s strident declamations, more than a hint of resistance.
Throughout the album the music is solidly produced, varied and interesting. Particularly striking are the beats of Pimp’s & Ho’s constructed out of slices of Wake Up by the Neville Brothers. Isolated from their origins in the social tensions of New Orleans in the early ’90s, these artfully scrambled chunks of agitated funk provide an effective setting for B-Eazy to extend his metaphor pruriently, shockingly, as if picking at scabs.
A triumph of gilded production and lyrical simplicity is the FabSounds-produced Love is Sienna. Delivered as a father reflecting on reconciliation with his beloved family – the title refers to B-Eazy’s eldest daughter – the accompanying music is a delicate patchwork of blossomy, woozy soul. The congruity of words and music achieves emotional resolution as the album reaches its closing phase. Uncertainties fall away and a redeeming message shines through clearly: ‘All I ever think is love’.
The healing atmosphere is continued in the last track, Don’t Wake Me, with its pastoral neo-folk quotations and its picture of a dad healed and whole again after conquering his demons. It’s probably the most candid and tender track that B-Eazy has produced, even by his standards as a lyricist commendably unafraid to wear his heart on his sleeve.
Not quite everyone B-Eazy meets in the music industry supports his direction as an artist tackling the subjects of learning, growing, and putting his family at the centre of his artistic mise-en-scène. A promoter once told him rapping about his love for his kids made them uncomfortable as it is ‘too personal’. We couldn’t disagree more with that assessment. This artist, who has been producing tirelessly for over a decade, has just produced his most mature work yet.