Bar Exam: Dru Bex – Strange Days, Long Nights (First Listen Review)
I’ve just become acquainted with Dru Bex in recent years. I was able to chat a bit with him last year before he released In God’s Good Time, and I included it in my end of the year list. You never know what you’ll get from Dru. He’s able to do so much with a microphone and that’s what makes people like him so exciting. It’s like Christmas morning for me, getting ready to press play. Let’s go.
The bar exam is a sharing of notes from my true first listen to a project. I typically provide in-depth thoughts and commentary on anything from flows, rhymes, beats, creative direction, track placement, and concepts.
Bex Files – If you were to guess how the music bed sounds based on the song name alone, I would hope you would guess correctly. We open up with a spacey sound setting the tone laying under a snippet saying, “Everything I have is by the grace of God… I don’t care how much money you make, you can’t take it with you…” Dru eases in with a melody. His vocals are sopping wet with reverb. He’s talking about leaving worries in the past and surrendering his future to God. It’s an easy listening track. The beat progresses and adds some depth as the verb disappears and Dru brings out the flow. As a slow burning track, it’s a good opener for an album. It leaves the door of possibility open because of the different vibes and options Dru has at his disposal.
Strange Days – These songs bleed into each other perfectly. The handoff is seamless, so before you even realize you’re in the second song, Dru is busting out a new hook. The choices he makes with his melodies are unique but gripping at the same time. Parris Chariz hits us up for verse. This man has been dropping the best features lately. I can’t complain about anything that’s happening in this song. The mood is chilled, the musicality is strong, and the performances are at a high level.
Long Nights – The instrumental underneath this tune is haunting. Dru’s triplet flow at the top is hot. One thing I’m not feeling here are the ad-libs behind it. They feel forced, and this performance doesn’t need it if you ask me. Before I have a chance to ponder this any longer, we’re into the next song.
Mezzanine – I like how the bass hits here, and how the soundscape stays on top of you as you take everything in. Joey Vantes stops by on the second verse, and I really didn’t feel like it added much to what was already there. I’m all about adding extra things to songs in order to enhance the experience. Whether it’s an instrumental break, a snippet or sample from somewhere else, or a feature. I like for all of these things to be used intentionally in order to help the listening experience. This Vantes feature was just okay.
No Exit – The way these songs flow naturally in and out of each other is magnificent. When the bass hit at the top of this song, I had to rack my brain to try and recall if this was the same beat or not. These melodies just pour off of Dru’s lips.
“Been about this here life and there’s no exit/I don’t got no regrets because God blessed it/Looking at my guest list/I’ve been with the young and the restless/Going down my checklist/What are you doing right now/Dog’s gettin rowdy had to pipe down.”
As easily as the songs mesh, Dru Bex is the same at meshing these bars with these melodies. He’s so natural with it. Not only that, but he’s got some challenge to what he’s speaking. On this song, Dru is speaking against entitlement and calling people to humility. I really dig it.
Navigator 2020 – The beat here is simple. It’s a peeled back sound with just a kick and some Rhodes to start out. As the song moves forward, some more vocal layers are added as well as some big deep synths. This one plays like an interlude.
No Treadmill – “We ain’t come this far just to come this far.” We go straight from this hook into a trap-influenced verse from Dru. Of course, he can pull it off. He’s a master. The entire song switches up in the second half of the track for Not Klyde and Kid Tris to do their thing on it. In a world of people with short attention spans, this is the song for those people. It’s like the weather in Colorado – if you don’t like how it is right now, just wait about thirty seconds.
Co$t – There are some absolute banging beats on this project. Dru Bex is terrific at finding good melodies to fit them too. Jon Keith jumps in spittin’ at a high level. He pauses for effect in some spots, has some good similes that make you think. This is one to rewind and play again.
3:33 – Again, these beats are so very dope. It’s got me nodding my head. Man, Dru goes crazy with the flows here, and it seems like he’s just playing around with every tool he’s got in his belt. He comes at it from every angle and it’s like he needs to touch each base before he brings us home. Magnificent.
Wifi Church – This was definitely a track that stood out to me just because I wanted to hear him unpack the title. I can get behind what he’s saying here.
“Social media? More like social mediocrity/I don’t even know what’s the greater atrocity/Fact that we all got social anxiety/Cause we not who we are on socials tryin to be/Or the fact that we got a online piety/I know how to act when all ya’ll eyeing me/But when ya’ll not eyeing me I’m a chief sinner like Paul not lyin’ B.”
What if receiving the word of God and the truths within wasn’t convenient and we had to get off the couch in order to witness all that there is for us? You gotta let go of these screens and find your identity elsewhere.
Compass – This track seems a little different from what we’ve heard so far. It’s got a pop sound to it, and the mood is positive and upbeat. Ada Betsabe lends her vocals to a verse here, as she continues to make waves in Christian music.
Weigh Me Down – Keeping with the upbeat island vibe, we move into this song featuring Papa San. Here we’re reminded to not let the troubles of life weigh us down. I’m beginning to lose energy here at the tail end of the project. I didn’t feel like the beat switched, grew or progressed at all here.
Motivation Monday – It’s been a minute since I’ve heard a new verse from Promise. This does not disappoint. This instrumental is airtight, and Promise brings it! Dru’s hook here sounds like it may allude to Bone Thugs a little, just a little hint. This song is a great note to end on.
This is not a perfect album. As masterful as the pacing and the fluidity were early on, I felt like it was set up for failure once the decision was made to break from that mold. The last four tracks were all strong on their own, but everything else was strung together remarkably so when that started to not happen, it made the songs here at the end feel like the rainbow colored sprinkles you don’t really need on top of a hot fudge Sunday. Other than that, I cannot say enough about how beautiful this music is. I am not sure this project is better than his 2018 offering, In God’s Good Time, but it’s definitely one of the best of 2019.
Overall Rating: Above The Bar
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