Bar Exam: Thi’sl – Small Thing To A Giant (One Listen Review)
Thi’sl and his trials in the last year have been well documented. I for one am glad that he’s back in the fold and making music, after announcing he was stepping away. I imagine he’ll be back with a renewed vision and passion in his first appearance on wax since his shooting. Let’s go.
The exam today is the same – I am sharing all of my notes from my true first listen to the project. I will try and provide in-depth thoughts and commentary on anything from flows, rhymes, beats, creative direction, track placement, and concepts.
9.24 – Skit/Intro track. News footage, anchors sharing information about Thi’sl being shot in the fall of 2018.
Talk to Me – Scooping bass drums and high pitched woodwind samples bring us into an upbeat song. The flow is pretty raw, almost like it’s off the dome. In the end, this song really just presents like another intro. It sets up raising the curtain on the themes and topics that will be presented in the album.
“I don’t need a whole gang/I’m a beast by myself/When you see me I’m dolo/In the streets by myself”
This Is Not The End – I’m unconfirmed if this is Tone Jonez on the opening vocals. Thi’sl brings a very reflective intro to the song. Live drum samples are dope. There are droning pianos and soulful background vocals. The instrumental has an old-school lacquer on it. In this song, we hear Thi’sl retell the story of his shooting. He’s reflecting on opportunities missed, and God’s plan. He even processes through Nipsey Hussle’s murder.
The music changes throughout. There are droning pianos to melodic pianos, even using lo-fi beats in spots to enhance Thi’sl’s performance. Early on, this is a tough song. It’s firing on all cylinders. It’s evocative, challenging, and sonically solid. However, it’s the last 2 minutes of the song that are puzzling.
I may be in the minority here… but I felt the V. Rose feature is unnecessary. Either let her sing the original hook, and then still keep this end part, or just keep whoever it is on all the hooks and cut off this end part. Otherwise, it doesn’t present as a cohesive song. Then it gets really shaggy and ends up very “on the nose” with the concept, wrapping it up in a huge fluffy bow. This doesn’t really fit well at this location in the track order either. I think it presents better as the closing song on the album.
Sugar – Digital sounds here at the top with chiming, crashing synths. JR *ahem* Courtney Orlando with a very dope hook. It sets up perfect for a big beat. But.. the beat is pretty reserved at the start. It’s an intricate instrumental that adds in the bass at interesting times. Thi’sl is rapping about his experience in the hospital. He’s storytelling from his perspective and has a chip on his shoulder. He’s still processing through people abandoning him and betraying him. The raps here are at the bar I’d say, but some doubling and Thiz adding a little more guts towards the end of his bars helps.
Let’s Get To It – The instrumental has some carnival ride type loops on the top end and buzzing synth bass on the low end. It’s a catchy track and quintessential dirty south club sounding song. He’s got a bunch of hooks he bounces in and out of. It feels really good and fun.
War Torn – There is an anthemic vibe to it with multiple delays on Thi’sl’s vocal for the hook. He doesn’t want to die young. He’s never been one to have a crazy pen game, but he’s very consistent. It’s all about the performance and the personality Thi’sl can bring to his art. Believe it or not, I’ve actually seen Fiend perform in person in the last few years. He opened for Big KRIT, Curren$y and Method Man at a show I went to. Fiend is a different artist now than when he was rocking with Master P and No Limit way back in the day.
It’s really cool to see Thi’sl tap him for a collaboration. Fiend spits really hard on his verse. He has a fire in his belly for this one. I loved how he switched up the flow twice to keep the energy and focus going.
“Where I’m from everybody in my city got a gun/Bout to catch a body/Already on the run”
Pinnacle – The beat never seems to pick up. There’s a lot of tension to it. It feels like a long build, then when you think it’s going to open up, it pulls back. Thi’sl’s raps are pause-heavy. There is lots of space. Jerrell Lomix is the feature here, and Thi’sl brings in the soul singer for a disjointed Chorus that has two parts. This one also sounds like another final song as far as theme and overall vibe.
“I’m the epitome of everything this world is fearing/And it’s time to face my fears because my time is nearing”
Activated – Very big drums on this one, but the snare sound isn’t the best. Courtney’s vocals are always on point though. Thi’sl is talking about how he’s a beast post-surgery. Thi’sl is a fighter and will continue to fight for the purpose God has instilled in his heart. Now this performance has some guts to it. The ad-libs and post-production on the vocals help a lot too. Again it seems out of order… This track sounds like a track one or two. It is very puzzling for this one to be placed at the end of the EP.
To conclude, Small Thing To A Giant, while it may be Thi’sl’s best project to date, has some bangers on it and that’s about it. I felt like I was pulled every which way when it comes to the overall direction of the project. The fluidity between tracks is not natural feeling and the emotional energy is sporadic rather than intentional. I would propose an entirely new tracklist for this one that would help the listening experience overall. I’d go with this:
Talk To Me
Let’s Get To It
This Is Not The End
Overall Rating: At The Bar
Listen to Thi’sl Below:
Buy or stream here.