Review: Flashlight $lim shows the battles that come along with being the “Small City God”

In the realm of hip-hop being from a small city can be a detriment at times. In the south particularly, we’ve always had to maneuver much differently than some of our metropolitan counterparts simply due to a lack of outlets. Arkansas’ own Flashlight $lim has personally had to deal with these things himself and it shows in his latest project. Rather than get mad at the frustrations that can come from being in an area less suited for a musician to reach his biggest goals though, this artist is one who is ready to shake the culture however he can still. What else could be expected from a “Small City God”?

“Going into creating this project there really wasn’t a goal, more like a snapshot of my current state. It’s a darker vibe and that’s because that’s where my life currently is….just the struggle of life that I’m sure everyone is facing. The intro is from my childhood friends funeral; so that alone sets the tone for the project as a whole. I’d like the listener to feel like they know me better after listening to it and also plays as a soundtrack for the loners (Basically what Kid Cudi’s “Man on the Moon” did for me).”

The intro he refers to in this statement does it’s purpose well. It immediately sets the tone with a palpable seriousness as she speaks on a time in which she experienced her son hurting most. I won’t spoil the whole thing for people who haven’t yet listened but it does a good job at captivating your attention and making the listener wonder what’s approaching.

The answer to what is approaching is answered when the sounds of “Ready Pt II” begins. Piano keys drive the production as Flashlight $lim wastes no time getting introspective with some personal lyrics. “I thought that there was more to life, always heard take it slow cause being old it sucks and they were more than right.” Its an attention grabbing statement to start with, but also one that makes it known quickly that $lim has some real things to talk about on this project. An interpolation of Archie Eversole’s “We Ready” helps to make the track as catchy as it is introspective.

The piano-driven production style continues to start the following track “Damn Shame”. On this track Flashlight Slim is less moody than “Ready Pt II”, instead showing a hunger and level of motivation that is infectious upon hearing to his words. Confidence is key in rap and he flexes it fully here.

Next up is “InAudible” and it’s a favorite for me in the early portion of the project. This one is a bit less conceptual/personal which allows for Flashlight Slim to drop some of the more free-flowing, braggadocious rhymes you’ll hear on the set. Sometimes its good to just hear rappers rap without much of a purpose in mind. I for one love to hear rappers who don’t always just drop bars for fun take the time out to do so.

Flashlight Slim is careful not to stick with the more light-hearted rhymes though, following with the battle cry-like single “Nobody Gets Me”. The title provides a fair assessment of what to expect without even pressing play on the track. Slim speaks out on some of the betrayal he has experienced and how it shapes the way he is today. Its certainly a song for the loners out there, but it still carries a certain thump to it that makes it a track I can see being played and performed in front of crowds.

Small City God flows on with a brief interlude before another one of my favorites “In Yo Feelings” starts. This record can be considered more of an observatory type of track, with Flashlight looking at a few H.A.N.’s (I’ll let you figure that out) he has come across. Slim proclaims that “real niggas never die” and gives advice to those who aren’t quite considered real ones currently. The overall vibe of the track is jazzy, making it a good fit as a song to chill and smoke to in my opinion. The sample switch towards the end is a good touch and takes the song to another level. In my time listening I found myself replying thus one more than some of the others.

The smooth vibes continue on the mellowed-out cut “Free Game”. Here we find Flashlight Slim in a reflective state once more but this time carrying a level of confidence that wasn’t as apparent on some of the earlier tracks on the album. It’s almost as if some of the lessons he described learning on the first few records are seen in live motion on “Free Game”. He still has his issues, evident by lines hinting toward infidelity, debt and family issues, but Slim also better shows that he can navigate through it all more so than any instance on the album.

The absolute standout record to me also carries the distinction of being the title-track “Small City God”. Flashlight Slim captivates with a more melodic approach to the record which is a full experience in moodiness. The level of vulnerability he shows here is reminiscent to that of an early Kid Cudi. The Cudi comparison also carries over to the actual sound of the record with its brooding bassline and sparse production allowing for Slim, his vocals and his words to take the forefront of the track. I like quite a few tracks on this album for their replay value but without question this song is my favorite of the entire set. Very well done.

We approach the later portion of the album with “Get Mine”. Melancholy production again drives this record. Slim sets aside the melodic flows of last track to give some of his better bars. There is a beat change towards the end that I will be honest and say should have been the beat the full time. In my opinion it renders the first part less superior and what have formed a better song if the production was switched. Though not a bad song I feel this one did the least to catch my ear in my time listening.

As far as songs on S.C.G. that are the most fit for radio I think “Way Upp” fits the bill more than any. The cadence of his raps are a notable quality on the song and it has a hook that’ll easily find it’s way into your head. While not my favorite song of the set I can see this being the favorite for quite a few other fans out there. A strong single to have on the back end of the album.

Things close out on a high note with the bonus track “Senses”. He takes the concept of our 5 senses and uses them as the basis for a record that fits perfectly as a closer. It pretty much combines every theme of the project into one package that clocks in at just under 3 minutes. It begins with the strong bars that he flexes from time to time, blends with a soulful and heartfelt hook that shows his melodic ability and does so all over production that is as smooth as butter.

Overall what Flashlight Slim is able to create is one of the more cohesive projects that can be found in an indie rapper out of the south. Slim is well aware of how he feels his music should sound and stays true to that by giving us music jam packed with a sense of vulnerability, confidence and him being able to walk the line between both perfectly. His production style flows well from song to song and you can tell a lot of thought was put into the sequencing of the project. If I had to point out one flaw that sticks out to me more than others its that at times his flow can come off as a bit choppy, almost as if his cool style is TOO cool for the beat every now and then. It’s something I noticed, but not enough to hinder the ability to enjoy the project as a whole. In the end I fully recommend Small City God as a project for anyone in search of new sounds out of the Little Rock area.

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