Sound — 5
Flobots take the socio-political rhetoric that is familiar in recordings from Jay-Z, DMX, and Ice Cube via Westside Connection, and color it with the melodic sounds of the viola, guitar and an occasional pop from the trombone played by Joe Ferrone. Where the band's predecessors recorded rap stylized vocals along bulging rhythmic grooves and techno-club parachutes, the Flobots style is hardcore rap with more natural sounding verses soaked in orchestral and melodic rock textures that may remind you of Floetry, Lady Sovereign, and California's AD The Voice. The track Stand Up silhouettes vocalists/MC's Brer Rabbit and Johnny 5's rough timbres in sweetly threaded viola chords performed by Mackenzie Roberts. The melodic rock vibrations of the title track made by guitarist Andy Rok Guerrero, bassist Jesse Walker, and drummer Kenny Ortiz make the tune likeable as the dynamics of the vocals flex it's muscles across the chord progressions. The songs are modestly pop with moments of hypnotic urban-soul and soft bluesy rock like in Never Had It. It is a tune that could make people sing this band's praises, while the grating tones and aggravated vocals of Mayday rile up the angst and chafing grumbles. Combat has a funky double-dutch jump rope beating in it's rhythmic moves, while the tightness of the viola strings on The Rhythms Method (Move) squeeze like a vise around the vocals as the rhythms move to a jungle beat. Flobots rap and hip-hop aggregates can be mellifluously melodramatic in it's storytelling like in Anne Broden, and other times the union of rap and hip-hop produces a frieze of jungle beats and energized romps. Flobots debut full-length album Fight With Tools, in a way, is a treatise that means to ignite a mass consciousness which shows people the damage of using weapons against each other, and the final track Rise means to influence people to rise above the corruption and stop that hate.
Lyrics — 7
Rap music is all about using the spoken word to affect people emotionally, and the Flobots phrase their words to make an impact on public impressions. The lyrics for Rise deliver, So much pain, we don't know how to be abut angry / Feel infected like we've got gangrene / Please don't let anybody try to change me / Me, just me in the middle of a sea full of faces We're different people but we're not scared / We ain't never scared to pave a new path / Make a new street / Build a new bridge If you believe in redemption, I'm calling to you from another dimension. The lyrics are a lot of inspirational rhetoric with a preachy tone. Ice Cube and Jay-Z talk about the same evils in society, but both of them are also guilty of the same corruption. Vocalist Brer Rabbit and Jonny 5 spew fire from their breaths but I cannot say that it is enough to believe that they live by what they are delivering in their words.
Overall Impression — 5
Flobots sound like they are greatly influenced by past rap and hip-hop artists and they are trying to carve out a new niche by using orchestral and melodic rock fences, but I cannot say that they show credibility in their effort. The vocals are over the top in being melodramatic and the music has a peripheral role in the songs. The music can be there or not, it is so muted that it does not play a significant role in the songs. All of the energy is focused on the vocals which are performed to shake up the listener, but it feels like an attempt to gain public adulation more than to unleash strong opinions against society's ills. Since Tupac Shakur, playing hardcore rap and hip-hop music has become en vogue and the Flobots latest release Fight With Tools feels like it was made to be fashionable. The album has the same bite marks as the early stages of Ice Cube and Jay-Z, even though the Flobots effort is to make something new.