Hip-hop or “hip-pop?”
Binary Star said it best: “You got hip-hop, then you got hip-pop.” Bad Ambassadors’ self-titled debut EP certainly leans toward the latter. Composed of vocalist Rich Jones and producer Walkingshoe (Joseph Sepka), Bad Ambassadors provide a highly demanded style that would easily land on any radio station. However, there are times when playability and/or “catchiness” do not necessarily equate to skill or individuality. This is one of those times.
In truth, this album feels a bit confused. The EP’s opening track “Who Me” juxtaposes elements of electro-acoustic pop and RJD2-esque productions that, while fine on their own, feel a bit awkward when pressed up against one another. The album’s second track, “Up for You,” somewhat bombards listeners with the introduction of a wholly different, and not necessarily desirable, transition in stylistic energy as the duo seems to channel the likes of Foster the People and other heavily played radio artists. The track’s chorus, like the several that succeed it, just leaves too much to be desired and can feel very unoriginal at times.
It feels as though this album has the potential and the momentum to introduce quality compositions, and yet lets listeners down time and time again. The track “Pardon” shows real stylistic promise and begs the question as to why this aspect of the group’s sound was not explored in further detail. Other segments of the album, such as the lyrical breakdowns of “Pinky Promise” and “Who Me?” show that Bad Ambassadors do have something to offer. However, the lack of consistency within the quality and stylization of the tracks is just too much to ignore. Each time it feels as though Bad Ambassador may be beginning to find their rhythm, they take a sharp left directly back into lacking production or unoriginal lyrical concepts. Unfortunately for the artist, and listener alike, this inconsistency is rooted so deeply that it is difficult to ever feel fully engaged with this album.
The real question regarding Bad Ambassador’s self-titled EP seems to surround the issue of whether or not they truly have the ability to make a project such as this work. There is likely so much more to this group that could be shown within this album and yet, this rather disordered concoction of sounds is all listeners have to go off of. It would serve Bad Ambassadors tremendously to spend some time localizing their sound and finding what truly makes them individual. There are moments that sound like early ’90s-crossover “beach rap” and others that just feel like radio-play pop-nonsense, and, unfortunately, the majority of this album is composed of the latter.
Though the duo should not be discounted as artists, sadly, it appears that they have yet to hit the mark with this debut. If Bad Ambassadors can come to find their stride within the genre, it is possible they will be a true force within the industry. However, until that day comes, there is much work to be done.