414 spitter ARnold Wesley is back with a new project entitled Nights On Water (NOW) and it is full of surprises. Tackling a range of topics over a mix of original and borrowed beats, AR offers up a taste of his various styles with this body of work. There are some pretty dope moments on this mixtape, but a few tracks most definitely stood out to me.
The show starts with this very mellow and metaphorical ode to black women in what could be one of the best tracks from a local artist this year. Using the “K.O.S. (Determination)” instrumental from Black Star, producer Hi-Tek sampled “Baby, This Love I Have” by Minnie Riperton. The mood stays smooth with a Jazz lounge piano melody laid over a lite kick and conga percussion. The bass-line sounds supplied by an upright bass and is laid back throughout the whole song. Everything is connected by a couple of high pitched Riperton ad-libs from the sampled track and it works great.
A couple of slick talking females lay the opening vocals by shouting out AR and then he gets right to it without a chorus or a hook. Dropping some ill lines about his love of darker toned women, his delivery is reminiscent of A Tribe Called Quest or even Black Star alum Talib Kweli himself. He never misses a beat on this one, spitting lines such as: “I bump and grind all against your rind. African vine, your spirit white. Been through it all, shorty got stripes. Its nothing like your watery fruit on hot nights.” The way he explores this topic with bars like these keeps the song from being heavy but still makes listeners think.
“Freedom(chains)” F/ Trina
Right after the intro, NOW moves into this joint, which uses the “Ms. Jackson” beat by OutKast. Keeping the original opening free of vocals lets the organ synth and piano layers show how well they complement each other. Then there is the reversed sample that always adds a roughness to the silky sound of this production. The drum loop is simple yet effective and the bass-line is funky; he selects a great one to discuss women (as a whole this time) and their struggle to be free from the chains of sexuality.
Singer Trina handles the hook with a heart felt performance that is as classy as it is beautiful. AR is again strong with the choice of bars and never drops a filler line. He really caught my ear when he says: “Should’ve purchased a Pepsi. The coke that he got her on got her dreaming of demons, the gargoyles, she stoned. She sniffing that Kanyeezy, don’t let her get in her zone.” The sped up delivery and word play made me rewind right away. Again the topic is a little heavy but AR makes sure he carries the load by making an undeniable track.
I could be wrong, but this tracks seems original and like it samples “Bleeding Love” by Leona Lewis at the same time. Either way its a nice track pulled together by the sample and bouncy drums. The anthem sounding synth adds a great background melody over the deep 808s. The hi hats and thin snares are looped repetitively but it works for this shorter song.
Unlike some of the other material on NOW, AR doesn’t offer a glimpse at something dark. Instead, he talks about his love for smoking, drinking, and generally being insane (unsober). The pen game never slips though and even turning up becomes lyrical exercise for the emcee: “Ice vein, popping max pills. I’m trying to ease the pain. Her purple dank, her purple dress, her window pain show purple rain. (…) I don’t need no lighter, I am the flame. But to her I’m looking like cocaine. She looking like Courtney, I’m Cobain.” Whether speaking on a young lady or his love for Mary Jane, AR is solid in flow and word choice.
**Final Thoughts: What I have loved over the last few months of writing for The Illixer is the fact that I continue to get put up on great artists. Nights On Water is easily one of the best crafted mixtapes I have come across. ARnold Wesley is a brilliant writer, skilled rapper, and wastes no breath on NOW showing people that. There are so many more great records on this project that its ridiculous. So people looking for Milwaukee talent need to aim their sights at AR, seriously. -Real McCoy