Genre: Rap-rock, alternative metal
Release Date: April 9th 2016
Label: The.XS Collective
Young’s sophomore release channels rap-rock in its entirety, finally putting the energy of last year’s Baybeats show on wax (well, digitally, but the CD packaging looks like vinyl).
This record was three years in the making, bearing the ideas and values of Young, their lyricist of the same moniker. The band is under The.XS Collective, a hive mind of independent musicians who each approach hip-hop with distinct hybrids — for starters, rapper Mean and his cloud-rap aesthetics, and the soul stylings of HeartFelt & The Urban Sensation.
'The Rally' sets the tone, before launching into 'Stellar Destroyer', an all out assault on conformist and superficial society. This is followed by 'Off The Wall', an energetic ode to the sneaker brand. While it bears some irony, lauding a commercial giant right after “I never succumb to what all your radio play”, it carries itself with a honest eagerness.
Young wears his heart on his sleeve, and we see that throughout this album, especially in tracks like 'Fallen' and 'Shadows'. The melodic 'Fallen' laments a lost friendship, while 'Shadows' mourns the parting of a loved one.
The stronger tracks on this album tend to be the flashier ones. 'I Am', 'Danger Area', 'Rush' all benefit from the over-the-top bravado of the genre. Heavy, distorted chords, DJ scratches and sick flows meet solid production. The arrangements are utilitarian, enough to the keep the songs distinct, never stealing the spotlight of the MC.
Unfortunately, the unabashed rap-rock displayed on this album is also bane to its deeper cuts. Sentimental arpeggios, oh-too-earnest choruses leave the quieter tracks feeling melodramatic and verging on corniness, apart from the raw, genuine subject matter. Young’s delivery suffers at the expense of his wordier lines, and they tend to reside with these tracks.
The culmination of these missteps is 'Panic', which attempts to tackle real issues, but reads like a series of contrived Crime Watch episodes instead. 'Bayangan' is an exception to this. Young dishes out intimate verses with flawless flows, and this, coupled with Firwan Johan’s crooning forms one of the best tracks on this record.
Hot As Hell', the only live recording on this album, reminds us of Young’s potential. Their onstage intensity remains unequalled — the vocals are ferocious, the instrumentation raw and hard-hitting. This doesn’t demean the album’s production. Young’s revisitation of Love.Soul.Desire’s 'Steel Androids' can attest to this. The track is robust, with much fuller sounding production and instrumentation.
Young’s new direction definitely compliments their content. Perhaps the Choong Hon Heng sample on its first track best sums up Full Circle: not always eloquent, but indisputably sincere.
Full Circle is now available on Bandcamp.