When we speak the word “Virtuoso”, we think about the classical greats: Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, etc. In good-natured bias, I did the same thing. Correction – used to do the same thing.
Hip-Hop & Nerdcore Artist Aramis forced me to change my way of thinking in 3 seconds. I hadn’t even listened to the album yet. I just saw the artwork & title.
“Virtuoso,” I thought aloud, “That’s a dope way to describe an emcee who you think has a very particular set of skills. Skills that make people like Aramis a nightmare for wack emcees like…”
This album made me think of Liam Neeson’s character, Bryan Mills, in the movie, Taken. Aramis is chasing the criminals who have stolen Hip-Hop from the lyricists. The only weapons he has are bars and this album.
Virtuoso is a mash-up of boom-bap style hip-hop and trap-ish melodies that very purposely showcases the steps that Aramis is taking to show his audience the wide range of his talents.
Damn, now I wish Aramis would have made a song called, “Bryan Mills”.
Virtuoso starts off the album with the introduction to an interview that he had on a radio show called, “Off The Hook”, with hosts Steven and Rasheed.
The album’s jump-off song, “Spike Spiegel”, is an ode to Cowboy Bebop’s main character, Spike Spiegel. Anime fans will really appreciate this track. The song goes so hard, listeners who don’t watch Cowboy Bebop will hit the interwebs to find out who Spike Spiegel is:
“I want some meat/
Because I been living on noodles for weeks/
Bell peppers and beef, without no beef/
You see what I’m sayin, I gotta eat/
I’m all about Hip-Hop from The Struggle, and that stanza made me believe that Spike Spiegel could have been a “government-cheese kid”. This is an instance that shows how Virtuoso uses Anime to take us to Hip-Hop’s humble roots.
Push feat. Ambush Vin teams Aramis with the sci-fi emcee that takes us on an adventure through a cosmos, where both of the rappers are entities and rule as Gods.
No Way feat. Suport is a barfest that was forged in The Arena. Those who grew up listening to artists named Guru and Big Daddy Kane know exactly what the Arena is. The Arena was where the most skilled emcees could be found. Rappers didn’t just step into The Arena, you had to earn the right to. It’s obvious that Suport and Aramis both earned their meal ticket to this exclusive event:
Still the nerd that you nerd that you know so well/
But when I step up out the booth I’m Stefan Urkel/
Your Wins? low yeah I got the glow like I’m Show-/
Nuff said take it from a pro let it go/
Zeal brings us back to today’s sound with a Chill Trap beat produced by Dreamlife Beats. Zeal confronts, yet embraces the arrogance in all of us. As the song says, “Sometimes you gotta stop living down here, and start living up there.” Zeal will make you feel better about big-upping yourself. There’s nothing wrong with showing a little zeal now and then. “How does it feel,” the song tauntingly questions us, “when you living on Zeal?”
On and On takes deeper into Aramis’ mind. I feel like this is a message to someone or even some entities from his past and present. As if he is letting those people who are in the audience listening that he has moved on, even while they stay the same and keep the same things going “on and on”. This song will make you reflect and reminisce, especially on the bridge with the guitar accompaniment. There are some deep moments on this track also:
Gotta keep it pushin long as I’m alive/
That’s why I hope that I survive the encounter next time the cops arrive…/
Worried feat. Razz Na$-T could easily be the anthem for Virtuoso. The emcees both turn all the way up to let the audience know that they “ain’t worried bout nothing”. Razz Na$ T ends his verse with a stanza that drills so fast, it would make Twista blush!
Nerdcore Artists have been releasing an influx of great albums this year so far. You can add Virtuoso to 2017’s trophy case.
Review Grade: B+
Metrics (on a scale between 1 – 10)
Replay Value: 8.5
Total: 35.3 (88.3%)
The Breakdown: My hip-hop appetite was full by the time I reached the end of Virtuoso. The thing I enjoyed the most about this album was Aramis’ determination to make sure the elements were well-represented. There are many albums today labeled as “hip-hop”, but don’t represent the original elements: Bboying, MCing, Beatboxing, DJing, and Graffiti. Listening to Virtuoso, I can picture all 5 of the elements. This was a feat to accomplish for an emcee who labels himself as “Nerdcore”. The awesome part about that is, he doesn’t run away from the Nerdcore label. He embraces it.
The album vocals were clear. I could hear everything said very well. My biggest criticism of Virtuoso is that it could have been sonically fuller. If Aramis would have had this album mastered, this album could have been blowing my JBL woofers out instead of making me turn up my amp or adjusting the bass boost on my radio. However, those are improvements that Aramis can easily make on future releases.
For now, I’ll just relax and imagine what it feels like to be Virtuoso.
You can purchase Virtuoso on iTunes at: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/virtuoso/id1225368114