For many of today’s young Hip Hop acts, successfully balancing intelligent lyrical content with party-oriented beats is a tall order. It takes true artistry to make rhymes about going to college sound good, albeit on top of uptempo snare drums. Luckily for Shawn Chrystopher, this two-headed Rap style is inherently his own, as evidenced on his newest release, The Lovestory LP.
Chrystopher is a unique and fresh out-of-the-box talent. Between his infectious flows and mellow beat selection, he has all of the tools to become successful in the Rap game. But perhaps his most attractive asset is his ongoing tutelage under the great Timbaland. This alone should surely help both The Lovestory LP and his career garner increased popularity. It certainly helps to have Timbo on your side, but Chrystopher possesses genuine talent and is not just riding the coattails of the a multi-platium, Grammy Award winning Executive Producer.
The album’s first three tracks are sandwiched between two interludes that help bind this first chunk together. “Pull Up” and “Minding My Business” demonstrate his firm grasp of the tempos, as he rides the beats both fast and slow accordingly. On the fifth track “WYSG ‘93,” he utilizes a more radio-friendly flow over chill R&B inspired production, before beginning a Pimp C-inspired sound over later tracks, “One Of My Homies” and “Palm Trees.” In a day and age where rhythmically complex, sometimes sing-songy verses are more popular than ever, Chrystopher proves that he can switch up his style depending on the mood of the track, and the seamless sequence between tracks makes for a smooth listening.
Chrystopher possesses both book and street smarts. On occasion, he even lets his guard down and speaks candidly with the listener. “Blackandwhite” and “Dinner With A Supermodel” come from the same introspective vein, as he discusses the implications of participating in interracial relationships, and his qualms with various types of women. They may not be totally original ideas, but Chrystopher’s take on the topics is refreshing. Referring to a former love interest on “Blackandwhite,” he posits: “She’s amazed by my hair and my skill to fight / And tried to take me out to parties that were strictly white / Frat houses having parties bumpin’ Lil Wayne / They won’t let a nigga in, they hate to play the game...” Fraternities playing Lil Wayne are commonplace on most college campuses, but Chrystopher’s highlighting the irony of a predominantly white party being weary of black guest is especially enlightening.
While Chrystopher knows the groundwork for making Hip Hop that is easy on the ear, he isn’t flawless. Perhaps the biggest drawback to The Lovestory LP is a lack of overall direction, and at times, it is as if Chrystopher is unsure of which direction to take his tracks. The album relies almost exclusively on the quick snare drums, which is both a gift and a curse. “Palm Trees” is hampered by drums that seem out of place and overpower the enticing Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock “It Takes Two” sample, while “Minding My Business” is hectically structured, resulting in a jumbled mess. Chrystopher is consistent with his lyrics, but overall track tonality on The Lovestory LP is more hit or miss. Also, with an intro track and three interludes, as well as three bonus tracks from his previous lovestory mixtape, the album is a bit short with only 11 new songs to boot.
Compared to his peers with mainstream hits, Shawn Chrystopher deserves some gratitude for utilizing consistent, more advanced lyricism throughout the The Lovestory LP. Due to its reliance on contemporary production and rhyme schemes, fans of True School and Golden Era Hip Hop likely won’t separate this album from the rest of the pack. But don’t let the occasional slow delivery or sing-songy hook fool you; Chrystopher is a legitimate wordsmith, and one need not look further than the album’s last track, “Nobody On This Earth”—a truly unique work of art that can be categorized as something between Dubstep and Trip Hop laced with a captivating pseudo-Spoken Word style.
Originality withstanding, The Lovestory LP is a solid release from the up-and-coming Timbaland protege. Shawn Chrystopher embodies true individuality as an emcee, but is still young enough in career years to continue molding himself into a more notable talent.