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 evening’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we delve into the music of M16 and the Full Moon Wolves. The group totes themselves as a clean force for good, utilizing their music to promote positivity, encouragement, and enlightenment to ‘ignite the soul within.’ That’s an admirable schtick, one that’s most certainly welcome in a contemporary hip hop community laden with everything that’s just the opposite. How do M16 and the Full Moon Wolves stack up against their independent scene counterparts? Let’s dig into their new record, ‘Outlaw.’
‘Outlaw’ is a very ambitious effort, clocking in with a hefty dozen tracks that span quite a few styles. The opener, ‘Long Time Coming,’ showcases M16 and company as hard hitting contemporary hip hop artists, utilizing some stellar beats and superb production. To provide some context I’d align ‘Outlaw’ with a modern record like ‘To Pimp A Butterfly.’ There’s an aura to the album that’s definitely akin to contemporary pieces like Kendrick Lamar’s latest record.
‘Good Music’ offers a sonic contrast to the opener, though it continues to define the sound of M16 and his group. Tactful synthesizers dance back and forth with M16 for a joyful romp through hip hop influence and danceable stylings. It’s worth immediately touching on the production quality of the music, too. It’s absolutely excellent. The songs’ sonic intricacies provide a compelling landscape for inventive production and instrumentalism. Take the next track, ‘RockStar,’ a tune featuring Kal Royale. The song is infused with rock and roll and soul to craft a dramatically epic atmosphere.
‘Hate It Or Love It’ embraces a level of nostalgia, utilizing beats and synthesizers that hearken back to the late 80s. The lyricism does as well, providing an anthemic-esque landscape of self determination. M16’s delivery is on target throughout the record as well. He slyly moves from verse to verse with admirable tact and suaveness.
The highlight of the first half of ‘Outlaw’ may very well be the dynamic ‘Can’t Tell Me Anything.’ This tune is really stellar. It feels a bit like a reggae/rasta-injected sound, especially in the harsh delivery. There’s a pop sensibility to the song, too, perhaps more so than the rest of the songs on ‘Outlaw.’ Again, the song is anthemic and inspirational, holding true to the band’s endeavor to ‘ignite the soul within.’
‘Stay Fly,’ a song featuring AM Star, combines a whole slew of influences. The production of this song is particularly interesting. In a Phil Spector-like wall of sound, M16’s vocals are layered majestically on top of one another in a chorus. Lyrically, the song is witty and consistently engaging, too. M16’s lyrical prowess is exhibited with a variety of styles, as is the case with the following song, ‘We In Here.’ Featuring Panama Red, this song legitimizes his lyrical ability. It’s very, very sharply written.
The synthesizer heavy ‘Ohhh,’ is a rock and roller of sorts, accentuated by driving electric guitars and thick percussion. “You know exactly where this is going,” M16 croons over a sound that’s increasingly complex as the tune progresses. Again, M16’s pop sensibility is apparent here. These choruses are infectiously catchy and downright badass. If anything, this act is resounding and triumphant proof that you don’t need vulgarity to be an awesome rapper or hip hop outfit. ‘Work’ feels equally as cinematic.
As the album winds down, two treats remain. ‘American Dream’ more fully equips itself with rock influence. The closing number, ‘Scream,’ has a sense of finality that is actually a bit haunting. The string sections cascade over the piece unlike anything else on the record. The banter between M16 and the Full Moon Wolves is nothing short of exceptional.
Thus, ‘Outlaw’ is a complete success. The album is sonically varied, justifying its length. Most independent acts with lengthy studio efforts have trouble doing that, especially when they find the space in which they can ‘play it safe.’ M16 and his band don’t play it safe on this record; they experiment and the palette of sounds is proof of that. As aforementioned, it’s also sweet to see a record like this embracing a badass sound that remains clean and focused. Check the record out; it’s worth your time.