Honesty is a commodity that is sorely lacking in the modern music industry. Perhaps the most memorable element of Flabz’ new seven-track EP, Under The Influence, is the truthfulness with which the promising West London rapper tackles the tricky themes of his own inner-demons, while seamlessly expanding his scope to encompass the societal ills he perceives to be pervading modern Britain. The result is an incisive and deeply personal record that serves as a comprehensive introduction into the world of Flabz.
Following up several strong verses on the E&Daniels Bar Crawl EP released last year, Flabz has created a record that successfully establishes his own character, and one can’t help but be captivated. Opening track ‘Sunny’ reflects the atmosphere of the entire CD, pensive lyrics delivered in Flabz’ assured flow, buoyed along a thoughtful stream-of-consciousness by light jazz piano. The record’s opening line, “It’s pure happiness when I rap, took my aggy-ness and put it in a bag…”, goes onto to be proven true over the course of the next six songs – as Flabz rhymes about personal ailments and afflictions with an effortless comfort that suggests the man truly is at his happiest when he’s rapping.
Album closer ‘Far From Perfect’ provides the most clear-cut evidence that Flabz’ laid-back, smoke-tinged flow is perfectly capable of delivering an articulate assault on anything he chooses to target: “a withered, white-collared white man is the face of a multicultural Britain, with the system in his right hand”. Flabz possesses the unique ability of acerbically assailing whomever he chooses with a casual, off-the-cuff breeziness, at times sounding like Mike Skinner with better structure.
When it comes to content, however, Flabz turns most of his criticism onto his own head. ‘GroundHog Day’ is another track that leaves the listener stuck in a juxtaposition of the warm easy-listening beat and the unfolding story of a man’s battle with addiction – “daily alcoholic shivers, chased away by liquid dinners… Just another day that I’ve lost to the grey”. Again, Flabz’ power lays in his deliver. He has a canny ability to coax the listener into the water only to unleash a tidal wave – ” destruction in my eyes, this routine’s so repetitive, self-negligence…”. The combination of calmness and calamity is startling.
Flabz further proves himself to be a gifted lyricist on the EP’s second track, ‘Life’s Addiction’, in which he showcases his story-telling flair as well as his knack for extended metaphor. Flabz tells of his romantic trysts with ‘Mandy’, ‘Charlie’ and ‘Mary Jane’ and ‘Stella’ – a concept that could have proved to be cliche executed masterfully, providing plenty of quotables that will doubtlessly make their way into at least a few tweets after the record’s release. Lyrically, Flabz achieves something similar on ‘SuperDrunk Marvel vs DC’, weaving countless comic book references into a track with a much more serious theme at it’s heart.
Penultimate song ‘Rush ft. Jodie Louis’ sees Flabz convincingly flex his more commercial appeal, rapping over the sort of Ed Sheeran, staccato-style chords and finger-picked guitar that populate today’s charts, crooning his ad-libs beneath the hook. ‘Maria’ shows a similar side to Flabz, the beat somewhat reminiscent of Busta Rhymes’ ‘I Know What You Want’. Flabz loses no momentum in the tracks that take him out of his stream-of-consciousness flow, displaying a versatility he would be loathe not to utilize on a full-length project. A full-length project that, after hearing what the condensed version sounds like, I eagerly anticipate.
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