album review ~ 'sean anonymous ~ 'anonymo'

On Monday 20th January 2014 The John Hewitt in Belfast, a now iconic venue that has played host to acts as renowned as Mumford & Sons and Seasick Steve, saw the Irish debut of one of Americas most promising young rap artists, Minneapolis's own Sean Anonymous. In a musical setting more commonly associated with aspiring acoustic singer/songwriters, Sean Anonymous took to the stage with infectious confidence and a striking charisma. Then came his set. A blistering whirlwind of sweet, flowing rhymes and energetic performance, the young hip-hop artist soon had the Irish crowd on their feet and swaying to the hypnotic beats. At the end of the set Encore NI was fortunate enough to catch up with one of the USA's most promising talents, even managing to get a copy of his debut album 'Anonymo'. Here Taylor Johnson gives his thoughts...

From the opening vinyl scratches of Sean Anonymous' debut record it's clear that this young hip-hop artist has the confidence necessary to succeed in what has become such an over saturated genre. To open your account as an artist by declaring 'you wanna live life', Sean immediately lays down a marker to the listening world. He's determined to chase his dream and nothing will stop him. Yes, this may sound like a cliched introduction to proceedings, but be warned, this is an album of genuine honesty and poetic prose, rarely pulling any punches in the process. The opening scratches of the record are reminiscent of Snow Patrol's early attempts to integrate hip-hop elements into their indie debuts. Think 'Absolute Gravity', minus the distorted, guitar driven interludes and you'll get a feel for the relaxed back beats of 'Anonymo'.

It almost goes without saying, that Anonymous's flow is both flawless and effortless in equal measures. His whistling overlays on opening track 'Fast Forward', glides perfectly over brilliantly constructed drum beats, almost subconsciously encouraging the listener to throw an arm in the air in approval. The slightly bluesy 'Hands High' highlights Anonymous's flexibility, having built a complex rap around a funk styled guitar riff. This track also showcases the Minneapolis mans speed, as he blazes through several brilliantly written verses with precision and ease. It also showcases the first of many collaborations, as Tony Phantom & TruthBeTold add another dynamic element as they declare they just wanna 'Make rap, make love and pay bills'. Not a bad mantra if you ask me. 'Sunny' see's a beautifully sampled version of the song of the same name, as made famous by Boney M. Built around a delicate piano riff that wouldn't look out of place on Amy Winehouse's debut album 'Frank', it's a beautifully relaxed track that acts as more of an interlude to the next track than anything else. It's evident that 'Alright' was written from a personal place. You can feel the passion radiating from each well considered and gentle verse, as Sean Anonymous showcases a gentler side to the carefree attitude which has dictated the album thus far. For the lyrical prowess alone, this may the strongest track on the record. If you were told 'It's hard to keep believing in this, please believe that I'm looking out for you everywhere that I go, through the changing of seasons, days and the evenings, are fading and leaving they're changing like rain and the snow' came from a Silvia Plath poem you wouldn't think twice. Which is perhaps the most fitting compliment I can give a song brimming with emotion and honesty.

'How 2 Get On' see's Anonymous take a brief back seat, as DJ Corbett leads a crusade against big industries and false promoters. With the sort of chilled back beat Damon Albarns Gorillaz has strived to echo since 'Demon Day's'. Meanwhile 'No B.S' see's the album reach a new level of relaxation, as the verses are allowed to flow over the audience like a wave. It feels as though you are in a hazy bubble during 'No BS', which may well be brilliantly appropriate. Though it has to be said it is the first time the record tends to loose slight momentum.

Final track 'Hot To Death' continues the albums relaxed vibes, with another track delivered with a relaxed confidence. Layered with 80's styled subtle guitar, it wasn't the momentous ending the album perhaps deserved, though will no doubt make for a great live performance.

Through Sean Anonymous's genuine desire to never compromise his own style and his commitment to self expression, it gives this record a refreshing buzz, leaving it as the perfect soundtrack to a house party or to a sea of swaying arms in an American stadium. 'Anonymo' is a beautifully honest debut and a reminder that American hip-hop is not simply defined by financial greed and men in suits. It's defined by the kids on the street, honing their skills in homemade rap battles. By local venues, giving aspiring artists the chance to play to their first audiences and finally by the artists themselves. Who, by following the example of artists like Sean Anonymous, will continue to keep it real and give new hope.

In that sense, one of the opening verses of this album may also be the most potent. Whats the one rule to become a successful rapper?

'Don't spit it, if it isn't true'.

Taylor Johnson.

Keep up to date with all Sean Anonymous official news on the links below:


If you like | Gorillaz | Eminem | The Streets ~ you'll love Sean Anonymous

Top Tracks | 'Fast Forward' | 'Alright' | 'Hands High'

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