New rapper's release is heavy on hooks, but still strong lyrically.
In a way, you have to be impressed by local rapper Devon Tracy’s latest mixtape, XVIII, before you even listen to it. A lot of rappers release multiple mixtapes in a year, but very few drop two free-to-web, album-quality releases within a few months of each other.
As with so many modern hip-hop mixtapes, XVIII is really an album by another name. All the production is original, and all the tracks are fully constructed songs, complete with distinct verses, choruses and hooks.
It’s also far, far more polished than an independently produced online release has any right to be.
Where his December release, Dreamchaser, showcased Tracy as an MC, XVIII is a poppier effort. That’s not to say that his rhymes aren’t still razor sharp, or that he’s significantly changed his content. Neither of those things is true. It’s just much, much more hook-heavy. Dreamchaser was heavy on diverse flows, including some very rapidfire delivery, and more aggressive production; in contrast, XVIII almost has a sing-along chorus. “Chance of a Lifetime” and “How Sweet It Looks” are both catchy enough to be radio hits. Even the serious, street life tale of “Hometown” (which you can listen to above) is centred on that well-known sample from Adele’s “Hometown Glory,” while the slightly harsher “Swerve” wouldn’t be out of place in a club played alongside Waka Flocka Flame and Chief Keef.
All that said, even the pop version of Devon Tracy can rhyme circles around most crossover rappers. He avoids the all-too-easy hashtag rap trend, using proper metaphors instead, has battle-quality punchlines, and still shows off that quick-change, flexible flow on songs like “Elevate.”
Devon Tracy has proven himself as both an MC’s MC and a rapper with pop potential. If he’s not getting signed to a major label or mentored by a big league rapper within the next year, I will eat my snapback.