Tape’s lows outweigh group’s highs

When I pick up a mix tape, despite whom the artist is, I expect to be so overwhelmed with lyrical prowess that it leaves me itching for more. Most times, I would search for the artists on the mix tape as well as their albums. After the Smoke does not do this for me with their mix tape “Catch 22.”

After the Smoke consists of five members. Mike Clarke (Cabana Joe), 20, from Fort Lauderdale, and Anthony Cameron (Stigma), 19, from Fort Lauderdale, are the group’s producers.

The group’s rappers are 20-year-old Robert Lang and 19-year-old Justin Blackwell, also known as Whuzi and Jae Swift, who reign from Fort Lauderdale and Charlotte, N.C.

Rounding out the cast, After the Smoke has one female vocalist, 19-year-old Carmen Schneider from Palatka.

First and foremost, After the Smoke’s mix tape gets interesting in the opening track. It begins with a hypnotic voice singing “I’ll take the rainbow from the sky for you, if one’s not good enough, I’ll bring you two.”

Whoa! I’m preparing to hear something unique. The music and word choice makes you think that you are about to be entertained with a Cee-lo or Outkast-type song, stuffed with mind-tingling metaphors or something else that will make you want to rewind the track. But rather, you are served with egotistical rhymes and elementary braggadocio.

As you get into the next track, which borrowed Kanye West’s “Diamond are Forever” beat, you almost tend not to listen to After the Smoke’s lyrics because of the familiarity of the beat. You are too busy enjoying Kanye’s talent that you tend to not pay attention to After the Smoke.

When artists decide to use other beats for their mix tapes, they usually do not use such complicated and instrumentally driven beats in order to keep the listeners attention on their words.

The point of a mix tape beat, especially if it’s not the artists’ own beat, is not to draw attention away from the artists rapping. And if an artist decides to use complicated beats, their lyrics should be as unique as the beat. Out-performed by West, After the Smoke cannot live up to the beat.

“Catch 22” catches itself with their fourth track. As “Don’t You Understand” vibrates throughout this mellow beat, After the Smoke decides to speak about “keeping their head up” through the pressures of life while still “holding the mic.” They are able to establish a topic and ride it until the final second expires-a task many artists cannot do.

Jae Swift treats you with his word choice and lyrical prowess on the tape’s eighth track as he rides a beat that sounds like something that would be on a Mos Def album. Swift walks the beat flawlessly without tripping or any faults.

Catch 22 throws you into a loop on its next track. The cool beat sound like something you would here on a jazz station, but the content of the song is about killing somebody. The hook is sung in a cool voice, “Tell you what’s on my mind, ’bout to go get my nine.”

Catch 22 does not leave me with anything that would have me running to the store to buy their album. Nor does it make me run to my friend to tell them to listen to the mix tape.

The tape also has more skits than any mix tape I have ever heard, leaving it with only ten tracks that don’t last more than four minutes. With the mix tape barely going over 30 minutes, Catch 22 leaves the listening wonder, “Is that it?”

After the Smoke has talent, but Catch 22 does not display enough of it to warrant further investigation into whom After the Smoke is.

To my disappointment, Catch 22 displays little, if any, of Schneider’s vocal talent, which is one of the group’s big draws.

Contact Anthony Anamelechi at famuanlifestyles@hotmail.com