Ben Beal – Places – Mixtape Review

I can tell you right now, fresh faced 17 year old, NYC rapper, Ben Beal recently dropped the best project of the year.

No shit.

Now you don’t need to front like you’re on lie witness news claiming that you know Ben Beal. Because lets be honest you don’t.  And I don’t blame you. He has barely hit 4 and half thousands followers on sound cloud and less then half as many on twitter. But that’s why True too is here, to shed some light and open up your musical world. Because as of late, I cannot get by with out my daily dose of Ben Beal.

His recent EP, Places, dropped on June 23rd which just happens to be his 17th birthday. And make sure you let that marinate a bit as you listen, this dude was 16 when he made this!

This tape defied my expectations. The beats on this thing are simply delicious. If you are a jazz-rap fiend your ears are literally going to have an auditory eruption. This tape is stacked with some of sound clouds most prolific beatmakers; you have cats like FloFilz, Flitz & Suppe and CoryaYo coming together to put their own flavours forward, creating this diverse eclectic collection of tracks that are all bound together by Beal himself.

Just listen to ‘View’

If you are not hooked by that wavering tenor sax, fuck, you do not like hip-hop. The way that sample melts into the beat is art. FloFilz truly is the current jazz-rap master. His ability to take the most intricate and obscure jazz hooks then marry them with flat kicks and dry sneers, thus flipping them into these catchy, vibrant, funky beats warrants its own documentation. This one track is easily the best synopsis of what awaits on Places.

Beal’s flow is good, but not great, yet. That isn’t a criticism; it’s an observation. The guy is 17 and already raps better than most current heavyweights, but that’s just my convoluted opinion. Beal has already mastered switching up his rhyme flow, to me a fundamental skill that so many MCs lack. There is no room for nuance if you have an MC just coming at you on every single track, regardless of the mood or subject matter. If the track ‘Polaroid’ is anything to go by, Beal isn’t far from reaching his lyrical apex, lines like:

it’s the boom-bap abstract, taff for the lab rats, escape, now im back to square one dripping like tree sap” 

This simple conversational approach to rapping seems so natural, and leaves you wanting more, but it isn’t yet consistent, I was just left wanting more in a few places. I just wanted Beal to really go on tear, show me how he could murder beats, demonstrate his ability to create complex rhyme schemes,or just give me at least a couple killer metaphors that will leave me on the ground supa hot fire style. I say this not to just split hairs, but because I think this guy can really be great. Hell maybe Beal’s lack of lyrical virtuosity is just some clever ploy to keep me hooked until the next release rolls around.

It’s rare though, to find someone so young and contrary to what is popular music at the moment. When listening to ‘Places’ I get the feeling that Ben is a confident 17 year old who is so sure of himself and what he is doing. His insights into the world in which he occupies are genuine and relevant; nothing in his sound or lyrics are brash hyperbole. There is no mention of drugs, ‘bitches’ or money. Rather, Beal invites you into his world and shows you what it means to be him and shit that’s beautiful. There truly is this youthful innocence that can be traced in all his tracks, be it is inability to fit in as the rapper kid, his lack of notoriety or his unconditional love of the music and I vibe that! I am sure Ben Beal will look back in 20 years’ time and this tape will be a musical transcript, a snapshot, an artistic journal of where he was in his head in 2015.

Ben Beal represents something that is quite beautiful that is taking hold in music right now. The era of amateurism. In light of the current ubiquitous corporate monopoly on popular music, the selling of music as a product rather then art has lead to amateuristic movement.  Where artists who hold their music as art, indicative of their own thoughts and beliefs are taking control of the distribution of their music releasing albums or songs on sites like sound cloud or bancamp. Proving that you longer need a deal.

Instead of being brainwashed and spoon fed the same music over and over again, selling you the same cliche’d slow build up, crazy climax experience I reckon the onus on todays listeners to go out and find new music. Because that is when you find the gold. Awfer, from one of my favourite UK hip-hop groups, Team Dreebs, once said that because he will never sign to a major label, he feels no pressure to create music that people like, rather he enjoys making stuff that is relevant and personal to him, if people like it, they can download or donate however much they deem worthy on bandcamp, if they don’t like it, he couldn’t care less. And this is what i feel with Beal, his music is simply personal and relevant to him, he probably couldn’t care less what you or I think.

That’s real, that’s the truth.

To be clear ‘the truth’ as put so defiantly, isn’t just describing the way the world is, it also has something to do with how the world should be. And this ‘truth’ has everything to do with awareness. Awareness of who we are, what we want, how we behave. Not many artists come close to being the truth, truly aware of who they are. Those that do, do so if not for a minute or just one song. It is in those moments where you fully realise the artists on the other end of a record. They are tiny moments of clarity where everything is stripped back, and moments of pure unadulterated expression occur.

And that’s what you get with Ben Beal.

The truth.