One of my goals with this blog is to try and help out Salt Lake City’s music scene by writing reviews, posting new songs and helping with whatever other promo I could offer. After extending this offer via a few social networking sites, B-Side emailed me with his album and press kit asking me to review it for him.
B-Side (B. Masina) is a local emcee, born in California and raised in Salt Lake City’s west side neighborhood Rose Park. His album B, Myself and I is a collection of stories of street life, struggle, love and the everlasting desire to achieve ones dreams.
The album boasts solid production from a handful of locals and a sharp, steady flow from B-Side. In his press kit it was mentioned that B draws comparisons to Scarface – which I find dead on. Both emcees have voices that are undeniable, throaty deliveries and straight forward cadences. One thing that sticks out to me about B-Side, is his no nonsense approach. He foregoes technicalities and overly flashy mechanics and sticks to what he’s good at.
Another element to B-Side, is his gift to sing. This added talent creates depth and diversity to the album.
You can download the album HERE.
Stick to the Code – This is a good intro song. The beat (produced by Tonga Kid) has a little knock to it; which I like. B makes his presence felt right off the bat and the Nate Dogg-esque hook works well. However, the braggadocio, street life subject matter is cliché.
B, Myself and I (featuring Kombo) – This is the type of song that happens to rappers all the time – a good concept with flawed execution. B tells a story of growing up with little to no options. Although gifted, smart and talented, he feels hopeless due to his environment, and bad decision making. I don’t like the hook at all, it sounds forced and unnecessary, alongside a Kombo verse that takes away instead of adding to the song. I’ve never been a fan of unnecessary collaborations; the goal is to add depth and enhance the song, but in this case it took a potentially powerful and cathartic message and made it sound like a group therapy session.
Love (featuring Koa) – I think B-Side’s girl was upset that he had been spending too much time in the studio and not with he, so he did what any logical man would do to justify more time in the booth – he wrote a song to try and patch things up. I think B-Side is a smart guy, but there is nothing inspired or intelligent about this. It’s a run of the mill advice column about treating your girl right. Everything about this song is juvenile; the concept, the lyrics, the intended audience, all the way down to the beat, which sounds like it was made using a Speak and Spell.
Come Too Far (featuring Ya Boy Pell) – I call this the “hook, line, sinker.” What I mean by this is, potentially amazing songs are sunk to a lower level by a poor hook. This is a plague that has affected a myriad of great emcees throughout hip-hop history (Eminem, Nas, Pac Div). Pell and B-Side go back and forth trading fantastic bars over a dope, choppy, synth beat. This song would have been one of the stand outs of the album with a different hook.
Dream Killas (featuring Melody) – This song has a ballad type feel to it. From the classical piano instrumental to the powerfully sung hook. B-Side delves deep into his feelings about never giving up. The entire concept stresses the significance of continuity. I could hear this on popular radio.
Dopeman (featuring Decoy) – This is my favorite song on the album so far. This is meat and potatoes rap. Dope lyrics, dope beat (which comes secondary to the emcees) and a simplified hook. B-Side and Decoy pull off a solid collaboration, using drugs as a metaphor of falling victim to a corrupted lifestyle all while staying true to the unwritten laws of the streets.
High Heels – This sounds like a failed attempt to mimic a YMCMB love song. I hate when artists dumb down their material to try and make a hit. I feel the exact same way about this as I do with “Love.”
Okay, I am now more than half way done with this album and I’ve noticed a trend that I don’t dig that much. 7 of the first 8 songs have hooks that have been sung. It’s getting to the point of overdose.
I Want Mines – B-Side dreams big about how he wants the “good” life. He’s focused and determined to once again reach his goals. This song reminds me of the scene in Scarface, where Tony tells Manolo he wants the world and everything in it.
Stone Cold (featuring Mad Max) – Despite the singing (again) on this track, I really dig it. Tonga Kid drops the hardest beat on the album so far and Mad Max and B sound determined to punch a hole through it. B-Side shows his versatility, weaving in and out of the beat with both a slow and sped up flow.
Definition of Cool (featuring Liu Vakapuna) – B-Side can rap. Point blank. He does his thing on this song, spitting with swagger and confidence, proving he’s as cool as he says he is. However, the hook is absolutely terrible and ruins this song for me. It’s unfortunate, because this song had a lot of potential, but it has no replay value whatsoever.
Tell Me Why (featuring Josh Wawa White) – I like this. The hook and instrumental have a very reggae/island feel to it and B-side some poignant bars about struggling and the confusion, anger and heartache that come with it.
Wussup Uce (featuring Kombo) – This is dope – reminds me of something Westside Connection would drop in the late 90’s. B and Kombo go back and forth onwhat is sure to be a hood anthem. I LOVE when emcees are able to incorporate their own slang into a song and make it relatable to everyone . This song has some hair on its chest. Well done.
Glass Ceilings (featuring Lem Seumanu & Kis B) – This is my favorite song on the album. It’s powerful. B-Side and Kis wax poetically about the struggles of immigrant families. They tell a story of the difficulties to succeed and how most families continue the trend of working multiple jobs. This is a song with a beautiful message, performed nearly flawlessly. You can hear the pain in both emcees voices and the hook becomes the summation of the entire concept.
Cleaning out the Lake (featuring Kis B, Mike Skilz, Syncronice, & Ya Boy Pell) – There’s nothing not to like about this song. I dig posse cuts and this one is no exception. B recruited a bunch of my favorite local dudes and the result was dope. There was no concept to this song, just a bunch of dudes going in. No one person stole the show, but no one came weak either.
B-Side has a lot of talent. He flows nearly effortlessly and has the ability to express his thoughts on multiple issues. Though, upon listening to the album, I feel like I’ve heard it before. The subject matter and concepts have been touched on by a multitude of emcees. (outside of glass ceilings). However, the potential of B can’t be denied and am excited to see his growth and progression as an artist.
Another thing that impresses the hell out of me, is B-Side’s professional approach to his music. I’ve heard WAY too many local albums that sound like they were recorded in a shower stall located in the basement of steel manufacturing plant. The sound quality, artwork, mastering and his press kit highlight his focus and dedication towards his music. There are so many artists who are talented music wise, but do not understand the business aspect of the industry. B-Side is one of those rare breeds that understands and handles both sides.
Additionally, not once on the album did B-Side sounds hesitant, out of place or uncomfortable. This can be attributed to the confidence he has in himself and his abilities. This is a strength very few emcees possess.
B-Side has aligned himself with local label Green Light Records and Boomboxx Music. A local powerhouse, chock-full of talent, that has taken the Salt Lake City music scene by storm over the last few years. The label continuously pumps out quality music, videos and performances. If B continues his relationship with his label, I only see him gaining more success and popularity.
B, Myself and I is a solid album filled with genuine emotion, grit and desire. I have no doubts that B-Side will continue to progress and advance over time.