Review Summary: Life is real...
Wilbert Gavin’s act Cities Aviv has taken the underground experimental hip-hop scene on quite a journey the last three years. His debut tape Digital Lows
is a work that displayed his prowess as a rapper and lyricist quite well. It also gave listeners a bit of a sneak peak of the new, drastic, direction he would turn to, on his following tape Black Pleasure
. The turn of which I am speaking is the breathtaking dive he took into experimenting with samples. Sampling of course is nothing new or novel in the hip-hop scene, however the way in which Cities samples and how he raps, or in many cases simply speaks over them, is quite novel. What exactly is so distinctive about Cities Aviv’s approach to music is everything he does is unimaginably, yet addictively abrasive. His beats and samples are so loud it is almost hard to listen, and his verses can barely be heard. Though here arises the true brilliance of Cities Aviv, he is an above average rapper and has proven so on several releases, though it is clearly evident that he discovered his low, deep vocal range, can be used just as much as an instrument as his beat makers. Thus every song becomes a song within in another. What I mean by this odd Inception
like juxtaposition is, as you listen you find that not only are you in a daze by how good and layered the samples are, but also by how deep of a trance you are put into by the low calm whisper of Cities Aviv’s mesmerizing verses. Imagine the harmonies of one Ol’ Dirty Bastard, combined with the powerful shouts of Death Grip’s vocalist Mc Ride. So much of what Cities Aviv does would be considered risky or highly unfavourable by other hip-hop acts because so much of the focus of the track is taken away from the actual emcee. However all of these unique talents and facets of the Memphis artist are melded together beautifully on his debut LP Come to Life
The album starts out in similar fashion as his two previous tapes, a rather outrageously loud and bizarre intro track that does a terrific job in preparing you for what is to come, and that in and of itself can be described as nothing short of a mental trip. “Fool”, one of the album’s absolute standouts, is the first time we hear Cities rap on Come to Life
, and, this track more than any other struck a deep emotional chord as he chants, “Come to terms with this image you decide to burn…” When you discover a particular artist, especially an underground gem like Cities Aviv, they are certainly anything but perfect, and are usually very rough around the edges. However it is for this reason you support them, so maybe one day you see them reach the potential you know they have within them-the potential that caught your attention in the first place. For this reason I became teary eyed when I first heard “Fool”, as it was at this moment I knew Cities put it all together so to speak. He found a way to display his masterful ear for beats and samples, as well as truly showcase his skill as a rapper and vocalist. We fans knew he had the ability to be a great rapper and producer but, we still did not know how long it would take for him to put together an album full of tracks that did not solely display one talent or the other.
Nearly every track on Come to Life
holds up this feature of impeccable samples and Cities rarely faltering as a rapper. Now the samples are not toned down by any means, (check “URL IRL”), rather Cities just found more appropriate samples that suit the volume of his voice. It is important to note also that his ability to make his voice another instrument within the song is not lost either, rather the line between the beat and his voice is more concretely drawn. Another one of the album’s many highlights, “Dissolve” illustrates this well, as the 80’s like beat, and Cities’ whispers asking listeners to watch him dissolve into dust, feel like separate entities though work in beautiful harmony with one another.
The album is certainly not without its faults however. For any first time listener the samples will definitely become taxing as one traverses the track list. Some are overwhelmingly loud, while others are so quirky, so out there
that it is a wonder where the hell
he found that particular sample. Thus arises the most overwhelming fault of Come to Life
: its redundancies. At the very least one has to marvel at the album’s crisp, layered production, though the way in which Cities produces a track becomes almost superfluous. The concluding track, “Don’t Ever Look Back”, exemplifies this best. The beat is repeated over and over again with very little variation, and unless one immediately falls in love with the sample, it becomes an effort to listen to the track all the way through. Though fortunately there are only a few songs on Come to Life
guilty of this, and it is something that will be incredibly easy for Cities Aviv to iron out on future releases.
Come to Life
is everything Cities Aviv, and his few but loyal fans wanted it to be-a trip, not only for the ears but the mind and body as well. This album is an adventure and is incredibly rewarding-if you let it be. Forget everything you have ever known about hip-hop or rap, or whatever genre you prefer, and just let the lush, immense sounds take over. The best way to enjoy this is to simply expect the unexpected, because however well I described Cities Aviv to you and his debut LP Come to Life
, like any master artwork, you will interpret it in a completely different and unique fashion. So let this album take you on your own journey you will not regret it.