I’ve worked with musicians for nearly 5 years now and one thing I can tell you for sure is that they hate to be put into a box. Expectations of what they should do and how they should sound just rarely are received well. This is even more so when the opinion is unwarranted.
What has to be understood is that to an artist their music is like their baby. In some ways I think this is amplified more when it comes to hip-hop. The reason I say this is because hip-hop tends to be based more in lyricism that comes directly from the perspective of the artist. In a lot of ways rappers tell their story first-hand and more vividly than other genres. So for them to be expected to do something that doesn’t personally appease them is not going to be welcomed.
Jackson, Mississippi’s Eig21ht takes this concept and makes it the focus of his new LP “No Box At All”. “I wanted this album to show my growth. I wanted to be radical and every rule i could think of, i wanted to break. I wanted to push myself to level where even i was amazed at my creation. I wanted to go beyond thinking outside the box.”
Ironically he kicks off the project with a statement of self assessment, “I think I’m stuck in my ways”. In a lot of ways “Stuck” sets the tone as he all but boxes himself in to start a project that is about the opposite. Menacing production from Metro Boomin drives the track and allows for Eig21ht to fall into the pocket with perfection.
“Scars” begins with a familiar Intro courtesy of The Lion King. Quickly the bounce comes, literally and figuratively, as Eig21ht brings a lot of energy on the record. He shows great balance here as he personifies Scar the lion as a metaphor for the scars that it’ll take on the journey to reach your dreams. Personal lyrics about finances and other issues he deals with currently makes the track feel more personal although it’s definitely something that could be played in the club.
“No Box At All” continues forth with Deja Vudoo. It’s the first of two songs featuring Hotep Slowsteps and a change of pace. The production slows down for the first time on the set and allows for Eig21ht to be a bit more precise with his wordplay in specific on this single. “Moonlight” follows with the same feature but a totally different vibe. I would say Moonlight is certainly more alternative than what we’ve heard so far on “No Box At All”. The production is a bit unorthodox with starry melodies in the background. Eig21ht still shines though as he again takes on a bit of a persona, this time one of a vampire.
Eig21ht calls upon Kenyon3955 and D.O.L.O. for some lyrical sparring on “Don’t Sleep”. The hook is driven by one hell of a dream that sees Eig21ht envision some of his greatest desires. The sample is impeccable, as it features Christopher Williams’ 1991 smash “I’m Dreamin'”. Both features are well placed as they match Eig21ht’s energy and lyrical penchant.
We may all know Dolla Black as a superior rapper but here he fills in as a brooding crooner. His baritone vocals are essentially gospel on “Angels”, as he pleads for God to send his soldiers down to help him out. Eig21ht takes a socially conscious route on the song, with bars examining the state of the world we currently live in.
If “Angels” is Gospel then “Anger Management 2” is certainly rock and roll. Over electric guitars Matthew Simonton lays the hook and Eig21ht comes through to vent like any true rager would. I will admit this is my least favorite track of all 10. That’s not to say it isn’t well put together though and I’m sure plenty of others will enjoy it.
One of the lead singles from “No Box At All” was “Bars”. Eig21ht steps aside to begin, allowing Renee Lee to flex her skill. The Jackson Femcee does just that with a catchy hook and several witty lines throughout before Eig21ht returns to close things out.
“Stand Down” finds Eig21ht back on his own with no features. He holds it down solo with a message for his haters and competitors out there. Definitely another record that is ready for play in the club.
Eig21ht closes out the project with “Zero Gravity”. This outro features Renee Lee and her energetic flows once more while Ty Lyricz croons on the hook. The song does have a conclusionary feel to it as they speak on how their rises continue on. As with every other record on the album Eig21ht excels lyrically.
The biggest takeaway from “No Box At All” is that Eig21ht has motherfucking bars! His production varies throughout the album but his flow never slacks up, showing great versatility in what he does. He does have more features than I would have liked on the project but it never bogs it down any. All the features are well thought out and properly placed. The production, which is complied by Metro Boomin, DoncheDidIt, Kidd Doja, Fox and Ricky Rich, shows variety and keeps things interesting throughout. All things considered I have no complaints about the project and would recommend it to anyone who likes a mixture of lyricism and upbeat flows.