YC the Cynic – GNK [Album Review]

YC The Cynic GNK

YC the Cynic is a rapper who’s recently been creating some hype for himself and the amount of hype seems to be growing fairly quickly.  I can’t say that I discovered him early, before he was on the rise to underground fame; I actually had never heard of him until a few months ago.  The few songs that I heard were really good, though, so I immediately took note of him as a rapper to pay attention to.  When I found out that he would be releasing his official debut album, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.  Needless to say, I downloaded it as soon as I could and put it high up on my priorities list.  It was two days ago that I first listened to it and I haven’t been able to stop listening to it since.

The most notable aspect of this album is YC himself.  He’s quite interesting to me.  In fact, it’s hard for me to even describe him.  On some songs, he’s rapping like he’s God (to an even greater extent than Kanye), but on other songs, he’s conveying his philosophies and spreading positivity.  The former was what stood out to me at first.  I thought that he was one of those ego-maniac rappers that I, admittedly, enjoy.  However, it’s the latter that began to stand out to me the more that I listened to it.  Even though he has songs like “God Complex,” in which every line indicates that he’s literally God, I don’t think that’s what he’s really all about.  As interesting and entertaining I find it to hear someone rapping “as a God,” I think that YC is more of a conscious rapper, an ambiguous one that is.  It’s not always clear as to exactly what he’s rapping about, but with repeated listens, it often becomes clear.  He actually has a lot of meaningful things to say.  He may have a big ego at times, but he’s not Kanye (not to dis Kanye).  He advocates for a mental uprising of sorts of the black community, along with rapping down to rappers from Heaven.  It creates a weird, but somehow awesome, contrast.  Actually, he’s one of the most interesting rappers that I’ve discovered in a while.  Another element of his rapping that makes him interesting is his tendency to use quotes, interpolations, and vocal samples from classic hip hop songs and legendary rappers.  Various parts of this album refer to or pay homage to the likes of Biggie, 2Pac, A Tribe Called Quest, Q-Tip (on a Mos Def hook), Naughty by Nature, Run-DMC, and probably a few more that I’m forgetting.  He doesn’t just straight up jack any of these lines, either.  He scatters them at random points throughout the album and uses them creatively.  As a die hard hip hop fan, it’s fun to hear those lines.  Well, it is for me, anyway.  YC isn’t just interesting; on a technical level, he’s pretty great, too.  He has a good voice for rapping, his flow is solid, and he’s a very talented lyricist.  All things considered, I would call his performance on this album excellent.

YC is obviously the centerpiece of this album’s greatness, but the production is very good as well.  These beats were produced by Frank Drake.  As far as I know, I’m completely unfamiliar with his work, but he does a really good job with these beats.  In fact, for someone who I’ve never heard of, he did a surprisingly good job.  These beats don’t quite fit into any one specific sub-genre of hip hop production.  A bunch of them could be classified as boom bap beats, but I wouldn’t call it a boom bap album.  It’s really a mix of a lot of different sounds.  There are some soulful samples, some jazzy samples, and some samples that I’m not quite sure what genre they came from.  The drum sounds vary and a lot of the songs have different vibes.  I wouldn’t call these beats abstract or experimental, but they’re definitely difficult to classify.  This might be a stretch, but if I had to call them anything, I would call them alternative east coast beats.  All classification aside, they’re very good beats.  They don’t just sound good, either; they’re very well put together.  There’s quite a bit of layering going on, not to a DJ Shadow/Kanye type of extent or anything like that, but enough to keep the beats interesting.  There are also a lot of little details, similarly to the interpolation/vocal sample/quote details that I mentioned earlier.  The first song has an interesting beat because it’s actually (who I assume to be YC, but may actually be a guest) singing instead of rapping.  Another example of singing is this in-song interlude at the end of “Murphy’s Law,” which is used later at the end of “PWRTRP.”  I know that I didn’t do a very good job at describing the beats on this album, but when you listen to it, you’ll probably agree that “alternative east coast” is the best description that can be given to them.  They aren’t your average, specific sub-genre-abiding beats, which is what I love about them.  I didn’t know who Frank Drake was before, but I certainly won’t forget the name.  He did a great job and I’m excited to here some more beats from him in the future.

It took me several listens to decide whether I wanted to rate this album 3.75 stars or 4 stars.  The reason for that is that it doesn’t have quite as many songs that really standout as great songs to me as most of my other favorite hip hop albums of the year do.  However, it’s so consistent, so varied, so well formatted, and has such high replay value that I absolutely had to give it 4 stars.  When I say it’s consistent, I mean that it’s really consistent.  There aren’t even any songs on it that are “just good.”  All of the songs are really good.  Only a handful of them are truly great, but I think it’s preferable to have an album full of really good songs, rather than an album that’s a mix of great and decent songs.  My favorite song is “The N Word,” followed by “Murphy’s Law” and “God Complex.”  If I were to pick any more favorites, I would end up picking the whole album, so I won’t get into that.  When I say that it’s varied, that can be traced back to the variation in subject matter that I mentioned earlier, as well as the numerous sounds contained in the production.  I mean a couple things by saying that it’s well formatted.  One is that this album is a rare case of me not having any temptation to skip the last 10-30 seconds of any of the songs.  Typically, I don’t listen to songs all the way through because I don’t want to listen to the beat riding out for a minute or more, especially when I’m pressed for time.  On this album, however, that’s not an issue.  There are either beat changes or interesting “skits” at the end of most of these tracks, which make it worth listening to each track until the very end.  The tracks also flow into each other well, which is an added bonus to listening to them all the way through.  The second connotation to “well formatted” is that it’s a concise album.  It’s 12 songs long and I believe it runs for under 50 minutes.  A common problem that hip hop artists have brought onto themselves since the ’90s is making their albums too long, but YC realizes that that isn’t what people want.  So, he made this album 12 songs long and made sure that all 12 of those songs were of high quality.  That’s why this album has such high replay value.  When I first heard it, I really liked it, but I wouldn’t quite call it one of my favorites of the year.  Now, however, I would call it one of my favorites because I just can’t stop listening to it.  It’s practically all that I’ve listened to the last three days and I’m liking it more and more each time.  If you aren’t crazy about it at first, just keep in mind that it gets better with repetition.  It’s a very meticulously crafted album and I can’t praise YC enough for the time that he must have devoted to creating it.

I basically like everything about this album.  It doesn’t have any weak points.  YC’s rapping is great, Frank Drake’s beats are solid, and it’s a very complete, thoroughly captivating album.  I recommend it to anyone who’s looking for something that’s different from pretty much everything else that’s been released this year.  YC is one of the up and coming rappers to keep an eye out for and, in my opinion, he’s one of the best of the bunch.  He has the potential to do great things, possibly even greater than this album, and I can’t wait to see what kind of music he’ll be making in the future.

Rating: 4/5

The thoughts of this article resonates the authors thoughts, not a general consensus of the website (unless otherwise stated).