When you think of the phrase “Neon Nights” exactly what comes to mind? For many it may be the bright lights of South Beach, Miami. Perhaps even some random glow-party you drunkenly attended years ago? Either way the two words have to set off a certain light bulb, bright and attentive, in your memory. With that being the title of Jackson, Mississippi rapper Alexander FRE$CO’s latest full length project you would also probably assume a unique and electric energy would consume the music as well, huh? That would be correct.
“My Main focus was to step outside of the box. Not do the norm everybody expects of me. I wanted to show another side because that’s really how I started creating music. Writing R&B allows me to fully get into a mode I often reside in, but don’t show to the public. When I put it in song I want everyone to enter my mind and really understand my logic.” – Alexander FRE$CO
I’ve said it before but it still remains fact, approaching music from a perspective that may not be your “core” style can be a risk. In FRE$CO’s case he has always had a mixture of R&B and Rap elements in his sound but with the arrival of “Neon Nights” it marks a full foray into a sound based fully on melodic structures and harmonies. Genre lines are as blurred as they have ever been and this fluid sound allows for FRE$CO to take us on a journey rooted in love, lust and late night fun.
Kicking off the trip is “NN1”, a brief interlude that sets the scene of us being in a car that is cranked and revved up. “I wanted it to be the transfer into the mind of Alexander FRE$CO. It grabs your attention and takes you on a ride, like when you’re about to ride a rollercoaster and have to fasten your seatbelts before taking off.” While short and to the point, the interlude serves its purpose of building a bit of anxiousness.
From there we go straight into one of the project’s clear standouts “I Want You”. Santalus Beats starts the song off in a melancholy manner before FRE$CO follows with an ode to a certain lady that has captured his attention. While it’s one of the more tame tracks on a project that features a whole lot of experimentation it makes for a catchy groove. It’s a record that I could see easily falling into a radio rotation based on its sound.
“Sweater Weather” is next up on the tracklist in a portion of the album that is clearly more centered around the art of the chase. We’ve all been at that point where lust comes in and turns itself into a mission for the moment. It’s a theme that goes hand-and-hand with nightlife. That mindset is where we find FRE$CO here but not executed as well as the previous or next track. Thematically it did make sense for the risque record to be here, but it simply doesn’t capture the same magic that others do.
“When I’m With You” follows and is a track that gave me mixed feelings initially. In all honesty the hook on the record, also the first thing you hear, didn’t really suit me. Giving further attention though the beat drops and producer J-Louis continues to bring in more and more elements for which FRE$CO to find his groove on. While it isn’t my favorite track of the set it has proven to grow on me massively. One more prop goes to J-Louis, if you’re reading this you were in your bag.
The tone starts to shift to an overall aura that is more – err um, – “adult” in nature as we approach “Whatchu Wanna Do”. The chase ends as Alexander FRE$CO lays it all on the line in hopes of the official nightcap. The production is strong here as well with PYRMOPLAZA providing a frantic-paced backdrop on his first of 3 placements on “Neon Nights”. You can sense that an effort to find beats that complimented him well was really put forth and this song is one of the more clear examples of that.
Next is the project’s lead single “Like Me”, crisp video to match, this one has the potential that was mentioned about when speaking on “I Want You”. Less to the point than the previous song, “Like Me” finds FRE$CO doing his own version of crooning as he sets the mood for his muse. The chorus in particular on the track is very effective in capturing the style in which he aimed to craft going into this process. One of the tracks with the most crossover potential of all.
An ear-catching harmony prefaces FRE$CO’s most sexually charged record of “Neon Nights”. While “4PLAY” isn’t the worst record of the project, I also don’t think it is necessarily the best. While the aforementioned PYRMOPLAZA does a great job matching the impressive production laid forth up until now on the setlist the explicit nature of the song just isn’t for me. Perhaps it is a better suit for his female listeners though, as I do think the song could be a better listen to some of his other fans.
We approach the back-end of the album with one last change in the mood, one that is much more somber and vulnerable. On “Selfish”, MJ Nichols gives the album it’s most simplistic beat for a record that see’s Alexander FRE$CO in reflection of failed love. It can be hard to call it quits with someone and I think he does a good job of portraying the feeling, although the record itself is not one I would call a standout.
The next stop on the journey that is “Neon Lights” takes us into the mindset of someone pleading to fix love. “Stay” holds the title as my easy favorite on the album. A Jodeci sample of their song of the same name helps to make a record that would have been catchy already have a certain level of familiarity before the first listen. If you have one song you are going to listen to on this project that’s the one I would recommend. The only knock I have on it is that it is far shorter than I would have liked. Hoping there will be a remix at some point in the future.
Closing the album is “YOSHI”. Aside from being titled after the fastest Mario Kart 64 character, it also carries the distinction as the most ambitious record of the project. The production carries its inspiration from Super Mario (obviously) and the energetic cadence is matched by the vivacity of FRE$CO as an artist. We started with a night out on the town and by the time this track closes it is clear that the main character was able to find love in it all. The full circle aspect of the album is one I admire.
“Neon Nights” is one of the first higher profile drops to come out of the Mississippi indie music scene in 2018 and it’s a safe bet to say that it will live as one of the year’s more creative releases from the area. I have to be honest, not all is perfect on FRE$CO’s latest effort. There are some songs where his enthusiasm to expand his style does not necessarily connect the way in which he may have hoped. All things considered though the aura of emotion in the project and the impeccable job done by all producers here drive this album to be one I feel should be in the rotation of many for the foreseeable future. It’s not for everyone, but those who are interested in a form of Rap & R&B that may not be the norm this project is for you.
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