Title: FBGM Mixtape
Release Date: April 2, 2012
Track-by-Track Review By Thembisa S. Mshaka
The GLAM in her name stands for Good Lyrics And Music, and so does she. The ‘I.Rock’ is self explanatory: she rocks confidence, intelligence, and a mischievous streak that every 21 year-old should wear like a badge of honor—without letting it lead to their demise. She’s got a killer shape, but thankfully, she doesn’t lead with that like most young women artists. She wants to be heard above all. And though she’s young, you know she’s a student of great hip-hop that precedes her when you hear her say “ain’t no future in yo frontin’” on the first cut. A percussion prodigy, GLAM is the rare combination of a hip hop artist who is actually a musician. This makes her musical choices more complex than many of the new artists in the field. Though she swerves into pop and R&B lanes, line her up next to Frank Ocean instead of Nicki Minaj (no shade).
The daughter of platinum MC Nic Nac and platinum songwriter Dangerous Dame, GLAM is heiress to a musical inheritance where it’s Oakland mackin’ over skinny jean “swag”, and as her title suggests, money over bitches. Without a publishing deal, she’s already had her song “Happy” appear on Khloe & Kourtney Take Miami. With thousands of views from dance crews YouTubing routines to her underground hit “Turn Up The Bass”, and a recent private listening session at SESAC attended by the likes of Malcolm-Jamal Warner and Regina King (who tweeted “@glamirock is a beast!!!”, GLAM.I.Rock is on her way. Get familiar, and remember soulhead® said it first.
1) FBGM Intro: A-
“Driving my own path no matter what I’m hearin’ or fearin’/got faith up in my rear view with a engine of perseverance”…with rhymes that are far more insightful than most in this class of new MCs, GLAM’s flow is incredibly smooth at high speed. I’ve always loved MCs who were able to make their breathing imperceptible as they drop bars. She alternates between rhyming and singing for each half of this palette cleanser from whatever you were listening to before. She reveals the meaning of the mixtape’s aconym: Fuck Bitches Get Money. Alrighty then. Several ways to interpret this; choose one.
2) Lights: B+
Influenced by the sounds of 90s Southern bass and today’s club feel, this is definitely single material, “Lights” flips the idea of loving the glare of the spotlight in one verse, then shows us how it can burn and scar in the next. The hook intones “you can see it in my eyes/I’m addicted to the lights/hungry for the lights can I get another bite?”
3. Feel Good: A-
Synth melody snakes, stretches and contracts beneath GLAM as she espouses the YOLO philosophy that defines youth: “doing whatever I want to on any given night/far as I know I ain’t heard of no one livin’ twice/so I live it to the fullest/trigger happy with bullets/young lyrical gun/either push me or I pull it”
4. Stereo Blow: A
Fortunately this song makes me forget about the previous one right away. I love the bounce of the track, the dreamy synth and ethereal vocal of the hook, which encapsulates the bliss we experience when the music takes hold. “Turn it hiiiigh/make it loud as you can, louder than it’s ever been/just take it all in/feel it deep in your soul/takin’ over control/and with a feelin’ like that, tell me how I’m sposeta ever get back/where does it all go?/guess that we’ll never know/let the stereo blow”
5. Take It Back: C
Cool track and sample. Another cut that feels like a warm-up or a workout not yet complete, but it’s a mixtape–so these moments are allowed. The set would not have suffered had this been eliminated.
6. Ninety 3: B
GLAM adds a filter and removes BPM from Souls of Mischief’s “’93 Til Infinity” as the backbone of this track, where she ponders love, death and loss. The song closes with a nice cut mix of catch phrases from her catalog. Her YouTube fans know which lines come from which joints; a cool nod to them.
7. Feel It All Around: C-
This song drags slowly and puts a dip in the sequence. Feels like a work in progress because it’s so short…and from the rest of the mixtape, I know her delivery could be stronger.
8) Jurassic: B
“I don’t ever make it clap and because of that I should get a round of applause. They press play on GLAM all day, and for you eventually they’ll press stop.” “Jurassic”, though oddly named, is a quick display of potent lyrical skill. GLAM switches between rapid-fire delivery and a more even paced flow that matches the spare percussion and occasional loping bassline.
9. Sleaziest Feat RSG: A-
Too bad hip-hop is a man’s world and would see this jam as two girl rappers goin’ in on Ke$ha’s banger, “Sleazy”. These two give their male contemporaries much lyrical comp. I’d love to hear them in a cipher with Wale, Big Sean and ‘nem.
10. Gucci Gucci (Remix): A-
I much prefer this version of a recent hit over GLAM’s approach to ‘Faded’. GLAM hits hard right out the gate with rhymes that are in character for her as an MC, but right in the pocket of this track’s attitude, turning Kreayshawn’s whiny hook into a taunt to serve her own purpose. “F**kin the world hard, and I’m goin’ raw. All over Cali/Oakland to Pasadena/I’m on pointe/ballerina.” The juxtaposition of crass and class here is brilliant.
11. Faded: C-
If there was a song I would’ve left off the mixtape it would be this one. More rhymes about gettin’ lit? Meh. I like my hip hop better when it’s clear-eyed. I’d rather see GLAM and Tyga in a battle than hear his hook next to her verses.
12. 8:08: B+
Sampling “808” by Blaque, GLAM embraces similarity to the late great Left Eye (who signed the one-hit trio), who took hip-pop soul past its tipping point. As GLAM develops she’ll do the same–and the songwriting here gives us a sneak peek. “I could love you if you let me/I could love you/whatever that means” Love the unexpected grime vamp on this cut, too. She just lets it ride out, earning what would be a B cut a B+.
13. Illinois: B+
Recalling the 808 of Drake’s “The Motto” for most listeners, the heavy bass and crisp snare heard here are actually GLAM’s birthright, given that she’s the product of Bay Area music royalty. GLAM drops her vocal register with good results here: “Call me chic-ah-go wit tha illah noise”.
14. Head In The Clouds: A-
Now this song dazzles in its deliberate simplicity. Opening with words from Janet Jackson’s “Livin’ In A World We Didn’t Make” from Rhythm Nation, GLAM gives up another of her signature sung hooks that lives right in the pocket while synth writhes around her voice. Just when you realize you want to hear a third verse to ride above dancing keys, she cuts our love affair short: “leave me to my bass and leave me to my treble. Thanks.”
Overall grade: B+ Solid
Best Tracks: Stereo Blow, Feel Good, Head In The Clouds
I love that GLAM.I.Rock recalls the best of classic hip-hop flows, versatility of message, and confident delivery on FBGM. No gimmicks here just pure, fresh talent that will only sharpen over time. The downside to being indie is that she doesn’t get the A&R she so richly deserves. This mixtape would be an A without certain cuts and with stronger vocal performance or mixing in a couple places. But for her target audience, today’s young listeners, sonic quality comes second to authenticity, skill and relatability, all of which GLAM possesses in abundance. So do what the kids do: take what you like, leave what you don’t, spread the word, and GLAM.I.Rock out.
Thembisa S. Mshaka is a soulhead® contributor-at-large and the author of Put Your Dreams First: Handle Your [entertainment] Business.