L Neff - 'The Way It Is'

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this edition of the Independent Spotlight, we’re going to be taking a peek at ‘The Way It Is,’ a new record from the rising indie hip hop artist, L Neff. He’s a veteran in the game, tracing his hip hop and performance roots back to early childhood. Since then, Neff has embraced the modern age of technology to the fullest, clocking in thousands of virtual spins and fans across his platform of work. Though fans may already be familiar with ‘The Way It Is,’ this review is of the most recent edition of the record, a fully remastered rendition of the collection.

If there’s one thing that can be said for Neff’s sound, it’s that he’s crafted a very original one. All eight of these tracks are distinct and compelling in their own regard. On the production end, the recent mastering job has prepared the set beautifully; it can stand its own against any other studio effort and its excellent mixes wafted from my studio for nearly two hours. ‘Big Man’ introduces Neff in a bombastic fashion, but the party really begins on the infectious ‘I Keep Flyin.’

Very much in the vein of many hip hop acts, Neff invited a whole slew of buddies along for the ride - most of the tracks have guest features. These features do a remarkably good job of accentuating Neff without stealing his thunder, and again, ‘I Keep Flyin’ is a superb example of this. Primo Starr and Marka’s presences on the track round it out nicely.

‘Street Life’ is probably the strongest effort on the record that doesn’t include a guest feature. The production is beautiful, pulling elegant elements from hip hop and pop to manifest a fantastic soundscape. Neff exercises extreme professionalism over his verses; he effortlessly slips from one to the next with poise and tact. His music doesn’t feel ostentatious, either. Tracks like ‘Street Life’ offer insight into his own life quite interestingly.

‘All You Need,’ a track featuring Church, offers one of the more melodic and memorable experiences in the collection. I love the use of sparse autotuned vocal pieces; it’s technique that when used properly, can be effective and expressive. ‘4 Tha Hood’ blends pianos, haunting back up vocals, brass sections, and tight beats into one cascading wave of hip hop.

As you wind down into the final moments of ‘The Way It Is,’ you’re met with continual surprises. The simplistic ‘Who Dat’ draws Neff’s performance to the forefront. On ‘Can’t Back Down,’ the stunning Anna gifts Neff an invaluable service: this track is gorgeous. Finally, ‘I Know’ combines the powerhouse Dominant with Neff for a cataclysmic performance.

I sincerely enjoyed ‘The Way It Is.’ It’s a very good indie hip hop record that plays to the strengths of each featured artist on their respective tracks. Thus, the experience that is offered feels varied and consistently engaging. It’s eight tracks of serious hip hop well worth your time.

Listen to the record: http://www.neffnation.com/discography/the-way-it-is-album/