After the rocky launch and critical failure of his debut album ADHD, Joyner Lucas has been looked down upon as one of hip hops biggest jokes. Following the months of its March release, the 32-year-old rapper has been lingering in the shadows working to earn back the prominent status he held years ago. From then to now, Lucas has created a brand new album no one was expecting titled Evolution. Being at the lowest point of his career, can Joyner Lucas prove his haters wrong and make an improbable return to form?
Even though it’s plagued by some serious issues, Joyner Lucas’s artistic ability and intent is there. Revolving around the themes of being an outsider in society, Lucas raps with a chip on his shoulder as he thinks back to his trouble-filled life that hasn’t really changed since childhood. Despite his wealth and fame, tracks like “Evolution” and “The Problem” bring the Massachusetts MC back down to earth as he vividly addresses man’s struggles and the difficulty of overcoming adversity. On top of his personal failures, Lucas attempts to slay our society’s demons on “Things I’ve Seen” and “On This Way”. From the corruption of systemic racism to the importance of black unity, Joyner Lucas lays down the blueprint for human rights in 2020. The assistance of veteran MC’s Rick Ross on “Legend” and The Game “On This Way” doesn’t just add potency to each track; it displays Joyner’s ability to make meaningful collaborations with his idols. On the note of collaborations, “Fall Slowly” and “Like a River” serve as the LP’s heart and soul as Lucas teams up with Ashanti and upcoming artist Elijah James for emotional ballads about the struggles of love and the never-ending resentment towards deadbeat fathers. From this point, the remaining portion of tracks distill Evolution’s narrative. Whether it’s the corny half-hearted lyrical exercise of “Zim Zimma” or the SAVAGE MODE II emulated “Snitch”, Joyner’s desire to make a mainstream hit fails miserably. At its pinnacle, the painfully mediocre “Str8 Like Dat” is an artificial heart to heart reminiscent of Rod Wave’s hit “Heart on Ice”. While coming with its fair share of flaws, Joyner Lucas’s artistic merit and well thought out ideas steer Evolution in the right direction.
Behind the boards, the production is well mixed and mastered but the instrumental choice is very hit or miss. While cuts like “Evolution” contain some pretty dynamic lo-fi beats, “Zim Zimma” and “The Problem” lack creativity as they consist of standard trap drums and some pretty elementary layering. This issue remains prevalent throughout the duration of the record, but it hardly ruins the experience. “On This Way” and “Things I’ve Seen” are a few of the cuts that interpolate glorious background vocals into the already sappy instrumentals making them feel heaven-sent. While the saxophone and piano are as raw as they got, the poorly done sample of “Heart On Ice” makes “Str8 Like Dat” feel like a dull rendition of an already successful hit. The skits: “When I Grow Up (Intro)” and “Father’s Day” do a solid job at adding context to the record’s atmosphere as we get a first-hand experience of what separated Joyner from the ones around him growing up. On the other hand, “Tattle Tales” is a weird and somewhat uncomfortable scene where we hear Lucas’s teacher tell his classmates to beat up a little girl all because she told on her misbehaving classmates. Even though it’s undoubtedly flawed, the LP’s soundscape holds together for an intriguing listen.
While this is not a classic or anything close to it, Evolution is an important step that reassured Joyner Lucas’s legitimacy as an MC. Despite having many issues within its structure, the ideas are there, and it occasionally results in greatness. Going forward, it’s hard to account for Joyner Lucas’s next move, but if he can build upon this release, he may be able to reach the level many projected him to be at.
- Powerful social commentary
- Lyrically proficient
- Impactful features
- Joyner Lucas shows he still holds competency as an artist
- Bland Production
- Attempted hits are absolute garbage
- Falls flat musically at times
Written By: Marc Dator
Scored and edited by: Marc Dator, owner and founder of Fantastic Hip Hop