Before I delve into my full review of ‘The Nation Way,’ the latest studio release from the independent hip hop artist Nation Boy, I want to touch on a few things that I think are remarkably pertinent in setting the stage for this record. It’s an album that’s inherently different than anything I’ve reviewed in the last several months. It acts as a mixtape of sorts, one that draws clear inspiration from the heyday of gangsta rap, all while tying it in with a modern influence. Thus, let’s talk a bit about that…
Nation Boy has done something remarkably intriguing with this record. Typically, longer studio endeavors, especially those in the hip hop community, have the tendency to quickly turn ostentatious and self-fulfilling. I’d even argue that many modern indie hip hop artists use the label “mixtape” to drop a collection of twenty tracks that should have been half as long. Nation Boy’s effort, however, is truly a “mixtape.” It’s a grab-bag of the performer’s potential, exhibiting his prowess across sixteen well produced efforts. More so, each of those efforts feels like it has purpose. (Perhaps with a few isolated exceptions we’ll get to.)
As I mentioned, Nation Boy’s lyricism does delve into gangsta rap tendencies, if not just in presentation and delivery. It would be fair to say that he expands beyond that genre limitation, though, and he’s infused some contemporary rap elements into his sound. (Hell, there’s even some R&B and pop scattered throughout.) When I review a record, I spin it several times through. It was an especially interesting experience for me to do this for this record, however, because I was in a hospital bed listening to it. I must say, the nurses dug it. (That’s always a good sign, right?)
The first three tracks of the album introduce Nation Boy elegantly and offer an interesting sonic peek at ‘Middle Man.’ In some ways, “The Nation Way” is quite literally a “way” of creating hip hop. I love ‘Just Coolin,’ and it may be the best piece of that opening trilogy. It also makes sense to refer to it as a trilogy because after ‘On Go’ departs, there’s a palpable tonal shift. ‘Looking For A Rider’ reintroduces Nation Boy as a far more versatile artist than the opening tunes let you believe. This R&B-tinged effort is one of the most superb tracks on the album. Nation Boy’s vocal layering and performance are both astonishingly good.
The production value ‘Spending’ is exceedingly good, too, even though it doesn’t venture too far out of its comfort zone. Each piece of instrumentation is highly complimentary of Nation Boy. Nothing feels generic or overproduced, two common pitfalls of indie rap artists. In its brevity, the production of ‘The Nation Way’ is immensely suiting to Nation Boy. Even tracks like ‘She Don’t Need,’ a tune without any exceptional depth, has a wonderful composition backing it that accentuates the performance beautifully.
If I did have a critique of ‘The Nation Way,’ it’s that I do wish Nation Boy would expand into some of that aforementioned depth. There are some tracks that feel lacking in purpose. After spinning this record a few times through, I’ve heard more than my fill of Nation Boy rapping about asses. (Seriously, spin ‘Show Me.’) There are more meaningful things in life than asses. Talent like this owes it to itself to explore that.
‘InduStreets’ does explore some deeper territory, though. Tunes like ‘Finesse Me‘ & ‘I’m On It’ do a nice job fleshing out some intriguing personal stories, and ‘Could You Be’ is a stunningly good pop love track. That latter track has especially good production, adding some sporadic synthesizer instrumentation that really completes the tune well. Combine those synthesizers with Nation Boy’s vocal harmonies and you’ll find ‘Could You Be’ is the most infectiously wonderful song on the album.
Considering ‘Could You Be’ is one of the most well executed tracks in the collection, the disappointment of ‘Lame A$$ N!gg@’ is far greater. To be blunt, it’s just not a good track. It feels juvenile and poorly written, following one of the most quality moments on the record with the resoundingly worst one. ‘Shawty Got Juice’ continues that rollercoaster, riding back up toward much better territory. (Which is a good thing.) Just listen to ‘Where I’m From‘ to understand Nation Boy‘s story.
As you close out the album, the most notable experience is the terrific ‘Get Cha Money.’ It’s one of the best vocal exhibitions on ‘The Nation Way,’ one that proves to be the perfect manifestation of Nation Boy’s hard core hip hop and suave R&B. ‘Mizz Twerksum’ continues Nation Boy’s complete affinity for everything ass related. Has someone pointed Nation Boy in the way of bounce music? This is a serious fetish that seems to find its way into multiple facets of his songwriting…
Aside from a questionably unhealthy fixation on asses, Nation Boy does exhibit many redeemable qualities as a performer and songwriter. His production is on mark, and his songwriting is (mostly) consistently interesting throughout over a dozen tracks. That’s an admirable feature of its own. He’s very worth keeping tabs on!