Re:Flex The Architect – Alien Stepchild

Eseye / Scribbling Idiots (2009)
Reviewed by Ahnon Knomis

The Scribbling Idiots crew is a collective of some names you’ve heard about and some you probably haven’t. Among the crew is an emcee by the name of ReFlex the Architect. Now according to the artists Myspace page he hails from London and South East United Kingdom. A few bars in and you can definitely tell the bloke certainly isn’t from the dirty south and he has a heavy accent. To those reading I mean this in the most complimentary manner… Please excuse my American stereotyping habits but think Mr. Belvedere dropping a rap verse and you’re about on par.

One thing that struck me early in my listening to the “Alien Stepchild” mixtape was ReFlex’s unique manner in which he can go from an emotional verse to overlaying a singing hook and go right back to dropping gems without the awkward rapper trying to be a singer vibe. No auto-tune is needed. There aren’t many artists who can pull this task off but the S.I. has two in both Elias and ReFlex who’s names come first to mind. This is not to say ReFlex is a master of the sing/rap combo because there are a few moments in the mixtape that could have used some love in post production or a trained ear to work out a few off key notes here and there. Nevertheless, this is a mixtape so one shouldn’t be overly critical. Moving on…

Lets talk about beat selections for the mixtape. Now dealing with mixtapes its a toss up. It doesn’t take a genius to understand that status quo is taking commercial or popular beats and flipping them with your own take. However, its the mixtapes that utilize more obscure beats or B-sides and flip them which really turn my ear. After all, how many renditions of Wu Tang “C.R.E.A.M.” or 50 Cent’s “In The Club” can one really stomach? I don’t care if they are flipped by a fellow Christian or not… its the imagery and persona of the original that one has trouble getting past. Such is the case on this mixtape with selections like 50 Cent’s “Outta Control (Remix)”, Fat Joe’s “Lean Back”, Talib Kweli’s “Hostile Gospel Pt. 1”, Lupe Fiasco’s “Kick, Push” and JayLib’s “The Red”. I just couldn’t get past the originals to hear a new set of lyrics when the originals are so ingrained in my head. Others who are not as familiar with the originals may not have this same issue.

Taking away the tracks that challenged my listening ability I was pleasantly surprised by a few really good gems in the mix. Take for instance the track “Broke as Hell” where ReFlex brings that singing/rapping double punch with some insightful lyrics and a catchy hook over an upbeat unfamiliar instrumental. This was definitely a highlight for me because the London emcee complimented his song writing capabilities with a melodic flow and song structure. As an overall package this one gets a passing grade for sure.

“Pub Quiz” features ReFlex’s fellow Scribbling Idiots crew and the lending of Cas Metah, Theory Hazit and several others really took this classic flow and ran with it. The early 90’s vibe was a great place to start. If you enjoy that throwback sound this one is a highlight.

“Tear It Up and Shut It Down” has to be my favorite track on the mixtape hands down! The beat is hard. The bass line bangs. And Theory Hazit destroys his verse as a guest feature leaving the drum track ducking under a table like a small girl hiding from the wrath of a beast on the loose. The track overall compliments Theory and ReFlex’s singular styles and vocal presence as a duo. This one gets me pumped from start to finish! Windows down, screaming out of the window “Some of ya’ll say the same thing / your religion is fame / preach His name / we need to focus on His aim, stupid. / This aint music! / This premeditated pistol whipping 101 / whatchu runnin’ from? / Pastor got a gun?” Ha ha…. aw man there’s definitely some hot lines in this one but you really have to hear it as a whole to get the full context and appreciate the word play these two bounce off one another.

There was also a few songs which caught me off guard like the track “The Sound of Change” featuring Optimus Prime. Yea, Optimus Prime! As in the 80’s cartoon not the Christian emcee with a similar name (Optimus Rhyme). The beat here was a flip of the original 80’s Transformers theme song over a hard beat including that iconic transformation sound that us old school Christian hip-hop fans might remember first being used on the song “Iron Soul” with Remnant Militia and Secta7 (if you knew that consider yourself in the elite few!).

Overall the mixtape has its ups and downs. There’s unfortunately more tracks I found undesirable than those I’d rather keep on repeat but regardless the few stand outs more than made this worth your investment. There is also 20 tracks worth of material on this mixtape so you are bound to find plenty of additions to your playlist. Not a bad first release from ReFlex and I’ll be keeping an ear out as he continues to develop his style and put together an original collection of material. Of course I’m sure we will hear more as he makes contributions to one of best crews out right now in the S.I. massive.

For fans of: UK hip-hop, Scribbling Idiots, Cas Metah, JustMe, Theory Hazit, Wonder Brown, Mouth Warren

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