August Alsina – Downtown: Life Under the Gun
Record Label: Def Jam Records
Release Date: August 20 2013
Some of the best records I’ve ever listened to have been “impulse” buys, meaning that that I picked up that record for a couple of reasons, usually it was by a band/artist that I’ve always wanted to listen to, or the cover really stood out to me. I usually don’t pay attention to album covers very much, since they hardly affect how I feel about an album, but sometimes, they do stick out to me quite a bit. Both reasons were actually why I decided to pick up Downtown: Life Under the Gun, which is the debut EP by R&B singer August Alsina. I actually didn’t even know he was a singer, because the record was under the rap section at my local Best Buy, so I was thinking he was a rapper. The tracklisting also listed some indie rappers, so I was excited to check it out, because I was vaguely familiar with them. I had no idea when I listened to a song from the EP that he was an R&B singer. That made me very happy, because I love R&B, and he’s a wonderful singer when he’s not using auto-tune. Sadly, though, Alsina is no Frank Ocean or Weeknd, but rather, reminds me of artists like Trey Songz and Usher. He reminds me of those artists, not only for their voices, but their lyrics and the music itself. It’s enjoyable, soothing, and catchy, but it’s nothing unique, either, whereas Frank Ocean and the Weeknd are rather dark, experimental, and put their own spin on the genre. Alsina doesn’t do that, and his lyrics are quite bland, but still meaningful in plenty of places. The whole EP is actually dedicated to his brother who passed away last year, and a few of the eight songs on the EP reference that. It shows a more vulnerable side to him, and it works quite well.
Sadly, though, there are a couple songs that I don’t really enjoy, such as sixth track “Ghetto,” and fifth track “Let Me Hit That.” Fourth track “I Luv This Shit” is a song that has some rather inappropriate lyrics, and the whole point of the song is for Alsina to talk about how he’s going to smoke, drink, and have sex all he wants, because he loves it, so who’s to tell him not to? He does have a point, even if it’s not the most meaningful song. I do like the music itself with this song, however. It’s a very catchy song, and easily the most appealing song on the record that could get him more exposure in the mainstream. The song also features rapper Trinidad Jame$, whom I’m not too familiar with, but his verse didn’t make me too excited to listen to him, either. It’s rather bland, and just doesn’t do anything for me, really. The same can be said for every guest rapper on the EP, actually. I felt as though there were too many guest rappers, especially having one on four out of the eight tracks. That’s a bit much, frankly, even though they don’t get in the way of the entire listening experience. The other two tracks I mentioned, fifth and sixth tracks “Let Me Hit That” and “Ghetto” are a couple of songs with more sexual meanings, but they’re nothing I haven’t heard before. They’re the only real sensual songs on the record, with the others being about the hard life that Alsina has had, along with the bad things he’s seen. These songs don’t really do much to help the serious tone that Alsina started with opening track “Hell On Earth,” where he literally describes his life as “hell on earth,” and it paints a rather sad portrait of his life. It continues with “Downtown,” which is another “serious” kinda song that deals with some very real issues. In other words, there’s a lot to take from this EP. There are some “serious” songs that deal with living in the projects and struggling to make ends meet, but there are some more care-free tracks that are about sex, drinking, smoking, etc. They’re nothing special, but they do provide a nice contrast for the mood of the EP. The EP itself isn’t really special, because the beats are rather generic, and the lyrics aren’t too great, but Alsina’s voice definitely helps. He’s a solid singer with a solid EP under his belt, and I can’t wait to see where he goes next.