Most of the listeners who played Lincoln Way Nights: Intelligent Trunk Music in their vehicle found it hard to hate. It was a marriage that felt like it should last forever, the everyman insight raps of the likeable Stalley over the dusty thump of Rashad production. The two faded into each other seamlessly becoming one thing, and it was so impressive that even when Stalley reloaded for Savage Journey to The American Dream and got full length production from critically acclaimed Block Beattaz…the project got poked at. It wasn’t the same, the feeling you get listening to Lincoln Way Nights now is that whether or not the two parties intended to be a group in the first place, they are meant to be. In the same way Mos Def and Talib Kweli endlessly circle each other lauding themselves as solo artists while fans privately insist that their best work will always be together. They have a balance you can’t artificially recreate.
On Rashad’s Museum mixtape the assured viewpoint of a strong narrative flow like Stalley’s is missed. The first thing you hear as “It’s Me Again” starts is the sweet sample and rich build that progresses to snapping fingers and perfect horns. The problem is that Rashad is a producer who sings and raps. You can count on one hand the amount of times someone has been able to do all those things well. When he raps as he does on “JAM(That’s my Sh#t)” its rough, his flow is more of a stutter that tightens up and releases at different times. The production is rock solid all the way through from “Machine Gun” to “Out of This World”, but with a suspect flow and forgettable lyrics you catch yourself putting other people on the songs.
This isn’t to say that it’s not a good project. The highs and lows are pretty interesting. When he goes all the way R&B great things happen. He uses his voice to become a sexually joyful singer without any of the lurking creepiness of the typical Trey Songz, Dream, etc. On tracks like “We Dancin’” he’s doing just that, enjoying dancing with a girl he’s attracted too, nothing weird. At one point in the song he just yells out “Forget about your problems tonight!” This is exactly the point when he does songs like “My Pad” where he’s taking her back to his place to“make the moment last.” R&B was supposed to celebrate the joy of the sexual experience, and over time it mutated into something gross and unhealthy. Thanks R.Kelly. My favorite parts of Museum are when Rashad steps back from being an MC and just makes the music that I wish D’Angelo still made; he hits this stride on tracks like “Make Love 2 This” and “I Wanna Love You”.
This isn’t to say those are the only great songs. The Life with Styles P is fantastic: great beat, great hook+Styles P is always a solid formula. If you’re looking for a consistent R&B artist who is at the top of his game, you’re probably going to want to download Miguel’s Art Dealer Chic series. He’s someone that has perfected what he should sound like and is just polishing his existing product with tweaks. What Museum gives is a snapshot of someone with a lot of talent who has much more potential than achievement. Rashad could release the best album of next year or he could just produce, things are up in the air. Its fun to listen to Museum for its great moments. It’s just as fun to picture what will happen if Rashad improves on the stale moments. Hopefully he can find his way back to Stalley at some point while he’s perfecting his own sound.
Check out Museum below