Artist: Julian Rhine
Julian Rhine is closer akin to El-P than Eminem. Like that other Brooklyn rapper, Julian Rhine sometimes impresses with sheer wordplay, but more often he wins us over by confidently spitting minimalist phrases of personal meaning, doing so within the friendly confines of radio-worthy hooks sung either by females or capably by himself.
Julian traffics in hooks that are instantly memorable. On album-opener, “Something to Say,” we sing along as the narrator warns his female companion: “I’ve got something to say to you / Got eyes on you like no one else / Know you better than you know yourself.” This serves as a one-two punch with “New York City”: Minimal beats and keys are just a preamble to an upbeat chorus section featuring a female singing yet another catchy hook, “the lights are on in New York City.” Rhine is eminently likeable (no, not when he’s rhyming Flatbush with fat toosh), rapping “I think you should stay the same,” then singing over himself, “I don’t want to change a thing.”
Julian’s hit-making ability is truly impressive, as Rhine skillfully blends a contemporary cocktail of dance, electronica, hip-hop and R&B. In this regard, Julian Rhine belongs on today’s Billboard charts. The Journey of Julian Rhine is filled to the brim with addictive hooks: “Stunning” (“please, baby please, baby please, baby please / Don't you bite at the hand that feeds”), “Phase it Out” (“If it don't make you shout / Phase it out, phase it out”), “Face the Music” (“uh uh oh, I’m on my new shit”), and “Dust” (“I don’t really like your attitude”).
Chris Brown or Usher would have a bidding war over “Feel Like I Do.” With its pre-chorus, chorus, post-chorus and bridge, Rhine rides a wave of synths that build then flow directly into our pleasure centers. His vocal interplay with the female lead recalls a song from his rock/rap roots, “Numb/Encore” (Jay-Z, Linkin Park).
Julian can be fun (“bitches on my dick like I’m Ellen DeGeneres”), and he’s a fan of the greats. [A few of Rhine’s lines are reminiscent of famous raps by 2Pac (Tupac’s “acting right / 'Cause both black and white are smokin' crack tonight”) and Notorious B.I.G. (Biggie’s “sicker than your average,” “smoking la in Optimos,” “breast stroke / Right stroke, left stroke was the best stroke,” and “and if you don’t know, now you know”).]
But for whatever reason, Julian takes on Jay-Z (Brooklyn) and Eminem (Caucasian), when his own fans will likely be open to both. And although Rhine is well on his way to conquering the rap game, he hasn’t done so yet, and so “Conquest” and “Crazy International” come off as overly ambitious. (And “Star, Baby” is frustratingly messy with its disparate and disjointed genres.)
But Julian is a most promising Brooklyn rapper. And Rhine is poised to make that leap. Actually, he’s next level already.
*** The author of this review, Lawrence Gray, plays the dholaki for the following band: http://youtu.be/tMS73-1kCr8