May 21, 2024

You might not have heard of Y-S. I hadn’t. Not until, flicking through the list of releases up for review, I gave a cursory listen to the first track from his latest album “MiddKnight”. Who’s this new rapper, I thought? Not realizing that Y-S actually already has a string of releases to his names. Garnering critical acclaim and steadily building a fanbase, I soon began wondering why this Cleveland native was not getting the props he deserves. Y-S can switch between an almost aggressive flow and a more dreamlike sing-song style in the flip of a dime, and there’s a real authenticity and conviction in the way he delivers his songs.

When you spend time listening to the stories the songs on this album tell, the sense that all efforts to make changes and live in harmony can be felled by the people and craziness that surrounds us all, “MiddKnight” starts to make some serious sense.

Hip-hop and rap nowadays ae filled with rappers who rely solely on the hype and production of the track to keep the listener entranced. This is simply not the case for Y-S. His flow and his poetic wordplay allows the album to sound instantly fresh, and of its time, yet old classic in its demeanor.

“MiddKnight” makes you think while staying away from the stigma of “woke” rap. Opening on an extremely high note, “Unforgettable” quickly sets the watermark for this recording.

Y-S uses the opening track to introduce people to his beginnings, his grind, the struggles and the growth. This could be the story of almost every black man in America. “Members Only”, on the other hand, shows how he is technically and lyrically leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of his contemporaries.

Surely Y-S should be considered one of the rappers who is carrying Cleveland’s rap style into new heights. And “Red Lights” serves to confirm this theory, in song awash with tuneful melody and bars that will reach deep into your soul.

The varying dynamicity of Y-S’ voice provides an effect of multiple vocals from different people. His voice naturally produces work that resonates profoundly with the listener. It stimulates and soothes at the same time, and on the slow and soulful “The One”, this becomes more than evident.

Between a constant flow between styles, and messages, Y-S carries a charisma that boosts his material. Y-S also displays a pensive approach to his verses that read like wisdom from a world-weary soul.

The album takes a broad approach in regards to style, which plays to Y-S’ comfort switching between flows. “State 2 State” brings in some sweet R&B tones with a catchy ear-warming hook from Drew Vigilate, which play a perfect contrast Y-S’ earnest bars.

This brings us directly to the throbbing, chill groove, of the uplifting sonnet “Never Stop Me”. The effortless way Y-S pieces his words together in his raps is truly remarkable here. “Eastside” closes the album, in the same way it opened up – with Y-S dropping off some more autobiographical bars, to give us a deeper appreciation of his craft.

“MiddKnight” is one of those albums that really feels more like an experience than just a simple listen. Cohesive and even cathartic on the occasion, this recording is very easy on the ear. Mainly due to the sublime production quality, and Y-S’ impressive lyricism and flows, which keep everything running smoothly from top to bottom.

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