Yaves - History In Progress
Posted by Jim Clifford on Friday, May 11, 2012 at 11:26pm EST
The best veterans in any field eventually learn the importance of focused improvements. When you hear an athlete talk about how he is going to focus on a very specific area of his game during the offseason, people who know the game well enough to understand the importance of the improvement may get a justified chill. There's a point where you're set in your mold, whether it was self-imposed or self-created, and you focus on texturing the model you have in front of you instead of scrapping the statue entirely and starting from scratch. Yaves, formerly known as Street Pastor, falls into this category. He's been in the game for around thirteen years and he knows his lane. His hard work has recently paid off in the form of signing a deal with Xist Music, home to Ambassador and D.A. Truth. And in "History in Progress," the first tape to come out of the partnership, Yaves debuts a leaner, humbler, hungrier (if that was possible) product of self.
When I say "History" is half expected, half unexpected from what followers of the Columbus, Ohio emcee might've expected, don't misunderstand that to mean that what is expected is weak. Album opener "Wake Up Call" (With a tight concept for an intro) is stuffed to the brim with left-right punchline jabs that serves as a satisfactory album opener, but that pales in comparison to the following tracks. I feel pretty confident in saying that the next track, "O.D." is going to be a banger on constant replay throughout the summer. The beat creates an urge to bob your head that travels down your spine and the track clocks in at just under 3 minutes, so it's hard to get sick of the hook before the track moves on. "The Facebook Game" will be familiar to 'Prince Among Thieves' fans, with some tweaking on the beat, but I think I prefer the old version. Still, it's one of those that you'll be able to point out the differences, but you will barely notice them when the play button is pushed. And "Slingshot Strong," featuring J. Flue, is the obligatory Slingshot clique cut. You're enjoyment of this track will all depend on the stomach you have for the concert-ready hook, but I find myself rocking with it.
What surprised me the most about this project wasn't the quality. While the most frequent comment I think I've made about Yaves/Street throughout the years is that he needs to stop messing around with mixtapes and get into the studio to record a follow-up to "Underdog's Anthem," which I consider a holy hip-hop classic, dude has rarely let me down. What sets this apart is how much of Yaves we get to know in the hour-long session that is "History." Like in "Finally On," besides displaying a more humble attitude than I've ever heard from him portrayed on wax, where he walks us through his high school years over a jumpy piano line and a tamed electric guitar note flickering underneath. Or the re-introduction that the emotional title track is, moved to such heights by a cloudy, beautiful hook provided by Nik Sound: "So say hello to the new kid / I'm just tryin to write the Gospel like Luke did / It's funny they used to play me like 'Who's this?' / Now I exist on the same label that Truth is." This isn't to say that Yaves has been an emcee who rarely shares his heart on wax, but he takes it a deeper level here on 'History,' as if he understands that for his career to be properly documented, his side of the story must be told fully. This is seen the clearest on the smoky "Boomerang," a track that smells simultaneously of regret and hope as Yaves exposes, teaches, encourages and reflects on the end of an intimate relationship. Blame it on my season of life, but this is the top track on the album for me.
"Cold World" is a somber cut that many will instantly relate to. The comfort of Yaves flow and chilled beat will eagerly welcome the listener who needs the message of hope the most. "Stay Up" finds Yaves spitting over a flute-based aura of a beat while he meditates on his "late nights.....early mornings....." grind. It's a track that will encourage and motivate the true hustlers, despite the lack of banging 808s or a hype chorus. A huge strength that needs to be credited to Yaves in those two songs and for a majority of his music is this: A weak point for many artists, especially indie ones, is when they're forced to handle most of the hook & chorus duty on their own. But Yaves rarely makes that a weakness and, ninety percent of the time (career-wise), he handles it dutifully. Doesn't mean he always bodies it, but he rarely lets it became a weakness, and that deserves notice. "Jokes On You" and "IOU" both need to be mentioned as tracks that stand out amidst a project full of quality and that would demand downloads for 99 cents if the entire project wasn't free of charge.
There is a lot here that puts "History" in a conversation about the title of the best project in Yaves discography. But the strength of this project isn't, ironically, about how good the music is as much it's about the growth of Yaves as an individual that comes through in the most subtle ways on the mic. Like the running back who sheds five or ten pounds of useless weight so he can shift direction and cut faster, the road that Yaves has taken to arrive at this deal with Xist (Through Universal falling through, frequent switching up of the Slingshot crew, and just life), I feel, has left him stronger now that those storms have passed. Ultimately though, the big litmus test for free albums is this: Having listened to it, if I had to pay $9.99 to keep it, would I? I'll answer you as soon as I log into my itunes account. Don't sleep on this one.
Categorical Ratings Breakdown:
Beat Selection/Production: 4/5
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