So this is one of those debut albums where I can see people being shocked in five or ten years that it took this damn long to come out. Hell, there were a few cynical folks that said the hype would never pay off and we’d never get a proper debut, but for those people following CyHi The Prynce and his fans, it has felt like we should have gotten this record years ago because of all the hype. He was signed to Def Jam in 2009, got a cosign from Kanye and signed to G.O.O.D. Music a year later where he contributed to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, he had credits on Cruel Summer and Yeezus all the while he continued to churn out mixtapes, and with his Black Hystori Project tapes even notched some critical acclaim… but where was the album?
Well, I’m not going to say I know the answer here – there was apparently some label confusion and he eventually wound up getting dropped from Def Jam altogether – but I did take the opportunity to go back through those tapes and to my shock I was a lot less of a fan than I wanted to be. And believe me, that came out of nowhere considering I liked his flair for detail and his very real charisma and he tended to have great taste in textured and interesting samples and hooks that went big… but the more I listened to his tapes the more I got the impression of an MC who had a lot of bluster and hard words for people not following the right, respectable path, and yet a fair bit of evidence he wasn’t always toeing the straight and narrow either, especially in some of his attitudes around women. Now this is not an uncommon predicament for artists who want to be heralded as leaders in hip-hop, but artists like Kendrick and Big K.R.I.T. are always intensely introspective and self-critical, digging into what their potential hypocrisy and failures meant and reflecting on their experiences to refine some of their most nuanced and compelling work. With CyHi… the seeds were there, but especially on the second Black Hystori Project tape the messaging and hypocrisy began to ring more sour for me. But hey, maybe now that we have a full-length commercial debut – clocking in at a whopping seventy-two minutes – we’ll have the room for that deeper introspection to really make things click, right?