Houston’s Byron Bank manages to impressively walk the line between near-familiarity and freshness on this album. Flickers of recognisable musicality and a classically inspired approach to hip hop walk hand-in-hand with a new sense of character and a series of contemporary bars, introducing the artist in an increasingly likable way.
Beginning with the musical brightness and comforting traits of Bang Bang, Byron hits the scene with a smooth style and unquestionable confidence. There’s a Jay-Z level of optimism and energy to the delivery, and indeed to the structure of the track – this project is as impressive musically as it is lyrically and performance-wise; superb production allows each song to really reach out and grab you.
Given the title of the album, a certain underlying concept is suggested. Though there are a variety of issues and stories touched upon throughout, you do begin to gather a united sense of intention as each track pours through. Friends Turned Enemies seems to officially kick this off, delving deep into the personal details and experiences that have made up Bank’s journey. The track leads with a quickly hypnotic hook and a classic backdrop that tips its hat to the legends of the genre. Bank’s lyrics and his emotional delivery really start to captivate here.
Holy Flow follows on with a similar sense of urgency and purpose, raising the darkness and intensity, welcoming Chris Dolla on board to add a touch of dynamic. Conceptually things continue to get all the more interesting and unique. Bank’s voice sounds powerful, smart and stylish yet also passionate and sincere enough to hold your attention.
As the album continues, Bank makes sure to keep things musically and topically eclectic – allowing this to feel like a complex and consistently interesting playlist. Milestones in Blueprints redirects things towards a brighter soundscape and a level of optimism – another powerful story-line works hard to keep things real though. All In My Head then moves with a near-acoustic, string-led sense of melancholy and self-reflection – a poetic and deeply thoughtful song that seems perfectly well-suited to those late and sleepless nights spent lost in our own minds. A personal favourite for the mellow vibe and the honesty – a brilliant hit of escapism that offers a sense of togetherness; potentially helping you overcome feelings of isolation.
Sick & Tired furthers the personal touch and the mellow vibe, drawing you in further and building upon that connection with the artist. Fragmented continues this but adds a level of lightness with a finely crafted and near-organic soundscape. Some brilliant lyricism strikes again, too many gems to point out – something that rings true throughout the album. Then Getting Mine brings back a level of brightness and an aura of confidence and drive.
Towards the end of the project, Dro Frazier offers a Homebody Sandman style tone and flow, collaborating to lead with a smooth and soulful highlight that is Politics as Usual – another personal favourite, structurally expressive, somewhat minimalist yet brilliantly emotive and explicitly relevant. Lord Knows follows with a creatively free musicality that works well at this later point. A bold and bright moment that leads well into the smoothness and quiet confidence that tells the story of Saving Grace – a beautiful song with a crucial undertone; well worth hearing more than a few times.
The album comes to a close with the piano-led delicacy of Someday. Bank delves back into his personal journey, his story pours through in detail, fusing scene-setting with intimate reflections on the emotional impact of certain events. Meanwhile, a soulfully gentle backdrop accompanies the performance, allowing the strengths of the song – and those defined in the hopefulness of the hook – to really shine brightly.
Bank keeps things unquestionably real, and that connects intensely on this record – particularly during this final track. The piece acts as a reminder of the impressive lyricism and honesty that runs throughout the artist’s work. Superb production and a clear talent for the art-form stand tall at every step on this incredibly eclectic yet firmly rooted and heartfelt project. Byron Bank categorically offers precisely the qualities that first ignited the spark in hip hop, and this album makes for a stunning introduction and journey through that.