Bar Exam: WHATUPRG – RAUL (First Listen Review)
A One Listen Album Review: It’s been ten months since WHATUPRG dropped Pleasant Hill, an extremely impressive debut and a project that I considered “Above The Bar.” I’m excited to review RG’s newest, Raul. Has the shine worn off or is this another huge step in establishing himself as an important influence in CHH?
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.
Freeze – Synths lay in over a thunderstorm. “I was just a kid when my dad got deported/ever since then everything ice cold.” The beat drops and an eerie melodic instrumental fills in behind RG’s flow. The music continues to progress as he brings us further into the verse. This is a really dope beginning of the project, setting the tone for what to expect as far as soundscape and content.
Swish – The beat that comes in is a bit familiar. But the rags to riches spin on this concept is really nice. It’s not the average Biggie type of clichés, RG is pretty much asking the listener to look at what God did and it’s a beautiful thing.
“Check to check to check to check to check on every weekend/But even on the deep end, whole family eatin‘/I felt right at home on the microphone/Paid the studio, with the title loan/I saw Daddy work, hardest to provide/They still lost the whip, but we ain’t lose the drive.. and I’ve been ballin ever since.”
The beat progresses and WHATUPRG taps 1k Phew and Lecrae to assist as the track closes out.
Ni Aqui – We move into a hypnotizing and catchy track. Pardon me if I miss out on some of this Spanish, but I think the translation means “neither here nor there” and RG seems fed up with girls who call him now when they never paid attention in the past. “Ni Aqui” is a strong track with a beautiful melody and music that enhances the RG’s performance. He’s absolutely shining here.
JR is a small interlude, with one line that points to the heart. “I wish my dad was here.”
4AM – This song begins in a somber mood. A clean electric guitar plucking in the background… “I don’t pray like I used to… just say something” He then rolls off a flow pondering the reason for prayer and the motives of pastors.
“half the pastors in America/Don’t want my family in America/And even Jesus was an immigrant/But don’t nobody seem to give a…”
There are so many lines I want to pull out of this song. The way RG crafts his words, and can even bend some of them to rhyme with each other is masterful. The emotional depth displayed in what he writes is fantastic as well.
SR is another small interlude, with a charge to remember God’s plans. It leads straight into the next track.
Free – These drums are huge and paired with distorted vocals and a little synth bass, it’s like you’re at a rave.
“Free from the guilt/Free from the pain/Free from the enemy’s reign/Free from my past/Freedom at last, I got it all in my veins/Jesus, Jesus, I gotta tell ‘em I‘m free.”
This song seems to take on the same formula as some of the previous tracks, and the beat changes up significantly to close out the project.
We only had five tracks here, but RG brought the heat. The concept woven throughout presents like a movie that was worth every moment. There’s something for everyone here. You need to get your ears on this. Artists like RG don’t come around too often.
Overall Rating: Above The Bar