L9 aka L923rd, best known as a member of Movement Of Truth, presents his debut solo project LateNight x EarlyDays. Featuring 9 tracks of perspective, L9 takes the microphone and expresses some honest thoughts on his life, dreams, and the church. We'll take a closer look at this Cleveland native's album and find out if his missed sleep makes for good music.
1. Intro: This definitely is one of the most engaging intro tracks I’ve heard in a minute, it definitely will spark intrigue for those unfamiliar with L9 (or Movement of Truth). Between the hard hitting drums, smooth bassline, and unique synth melody the background is perfect for L9 to present his intent. Factor in his ability to harmonize and you have a good idea of what’s to come on this project.
2. Past Existing: L9 speaks on pushing past the urge to coast through life, living for Christ “all in” while submitting dreams to His will. The track is upbeat and catchy with a decent hook that goes well with the song’s feel. Definitely a good track to encourage the listener while maintaining the type of “swag” that is expected from L9.
3. Kardiac Kid: I’m not from the generation that enjoys the Dougie, jerking, or any dance of that nature but this track almost had me up pretending I had that in the repertoire. The beat has that simple video game feel with some punch to the drums, definitely a hipster’s dream. L9 speaks on who he is in Christ with a witty line here and confidence in his flow. This is a pretty good track, continuing the project’s opening trend.
4. The Straignt ‘n Narrow feat. True Story: Just as I get through expressing mixed emotions about the new school sound, L9 brings it back to the basics with this thoughtful song. Assisted by a strong verse from True Story, the order of the day is a careful introspective look at the beautiful struggle that this life brings. I love the track, steady and vintage, as well as L9’s smooth harmonies as the song closes. This one definitely is a replay- worthy look.
5. Apollo 13 feat. Nealones: Beat selection is a key component and L9 continues to impress with his choices. The way the song begins gives that “countdown to takeoff” feel, working perfectly with the overall theme of breaking past the limitations of the sky a la Apollo 13. One thing that jumped out at me is the free flowing nature of the arrangement, not relying on a 16-8-16-8-16 formula. Nealones really added a lot to it with her silky vocals as well. A definite standout on the playlist.
6. FakeLights x BrightNights: Just as I mention beat selection, this song comes up. There’s nothing wrong with slow, calculated music to facilitate introspective musing but this plods. It works lyrically as L9 weaves some points of storytelling and personal reflection together, but I personally struggled to really stay connected musically.
7. MNL: Mr. Night Life, don’t let the title fool you. L9 is speaking of his position as a witness for Christ who brings the night life. Mixing in a bit of his harmonizing ability, this track is a nice showcase of L9’s versatile flow. The music is not necessarily in my taste zone, but it works for the generation that L9 is both in and aiming for.
8. Short Days feat. Nealones: I have to say I am a fan of just about any production that strongly leans on pianos, live drums, and guitars. L9 lets us into his deepest thoughts and does so in a way that works much better than track 6. The jazzy feel to this song meshes well with L9’s approach, creating a nice change of pace track on the album.
9. The End?: For someone as young as L9 is, he spits stories that give the feeling he has lived through more than his recorded age would let on. Autobiography in full force, the grace of the Lord is shown strong as L9 continued on even though “some days [he] just wanted to give up”. Smooth flow over a nicely subdued beat to end the album.
10. BrandNewEverything: The first bonus track is one that L9 dropped months ago as he reintroduced himself as a solo artist, post- M.O.T. era. The response to this track was strong, rightfully so due to the upbeat nature of the track after a trying time of change for him.
11. Musix Of The Clouds feat. Malo & Nealones: This one probably won’t be on steady replay but from a creative standpoint it still deserves respect. Malo proves skilled on the mic and Nealones definitely possesses a strong vocal skill set.
12. Religious Nights: Another track that had a promo video attached which dropped awhile back. The beat itself is pretty good, I like the sample breakdown more than anything but L9 handled business well. As the title would suggest, L9 speaks on the religious mindset and how it can perpetuate a dark perspective more than anything.
13. Lights Out!: L9 goes a little gully on this one, getting into emcee mode with no hooks and straight spitting for the full track. The track is pretty nice, sample and scratches assisting in his quest for a pure sound.
Categorical Ratings Breakdown:
Originality/ Creativity (4/5): If you know about Movement of Truth, you know that they were a group that pushed past the point of being labeled with a genre. Although the collective creativity is not shown here completely, L9 is definitely a formidable artist in his own right. Rapping and singing both, his style doesn’t really bring anyone else to mind when I hear him.
Lyrics (4/5): As I mentioned before, L9 writes and expresses things at a level of maturity beyond his years. If you follow him on twitter or see his Tumblr posts, the insight into his life helps explain it. Some would say he has an “old soul”, even though he is young enough to like skinny jeans, and it reflects well in his writing.
Delivery (3.5/5): This is a tough one because he doesn’t have any real flaws in his flow, I just am of the opinion his voice is not as engaging as others. He has good breath control and a steady cadence, plus you have to give him points for his ability to sing.
Beat Selection/ Production (3/5): For a free project, the sound quality and musical polish is fairly advanced here. I felt there were three types of beats on this project: great, average, and only a couple skippers. All this in mind, I appreciate that he picked across a range of styles, possibly a surprise to any longtime M.O.T. listeners.
Concept/ Arrangement (3.5/5): The whole concept of LateNights x EarlyDays is wrapped around basically walking out the Christian life with a passion that requires little sleep. I honestly feel L9 stayed on subject here, covering the gamut of emotional and encouraging songs. With minimal features, L9 really did a decent job with presenting his solo artistry. Though there were some songs I thought were ordered a little differently than expected, the arrangement was pretty good overall.
As sure as a minute passes every 60 seconds, there’s always an eye that has to be kept open for the next wave or generation. L9 definitely has set himself up as an artist who the Lord will use in the future near and distant, as LateNights x EarlyDays shows a mettle that few debuts can claim. He’s definitely not a rookie, and he has a strong ministry rooted in the strong grace available in Christ. Check this project out and don’t sleep.
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