“This is not only the best best Hip Hop album ever from an openly gay rapper, its also one of the best independent Hip Hop albums released in all of 2013.”
No creative work by an openly gay man of color has been more anticipated in the last 4 years than the debut album from LastO (formerly Last Offence). The St. Louis, Missouri native’s previous mixtapes “Run A Lap” and “Not For Non Profit” were unleashed to unsuspecting new fans over 4 years ago with the ever constant promise for a debut album to shortly follow.
His fame and notoriety within the black gay community rose as he quickly became the heir apparent to the “gay rapper” throne. His attention to detail, quality and packaging set him light years apart from every other gay rap artist which put him critically ahead of the pack. This propelled the New York City artist to perform at gay pride events, be featured on gay blogs, interviewed with gay YouTube personalities and more. The entire time one could sense that something wasn’t sitting right with the artist.
It was clear that he wanted more than to just be a “Gay Rapper.” He wanted to be a “Rapper.” More specifically, he wanted to be THE rapper. One that would be recognized not just for the novelty of his sexuality, but for his skills on the mic, his lyrics, his song structure and most importantly, his desire to for people to appreciate and vibe to his music like they would for any heterosexual rapper.
This internal pressure (as well as a few serious external tragedies) caused delays. Rather than release a mediocre project that wouldn’t fully represent his vision, he opted to keep working on it. Months quickly turned into years. Many of the fans LastO had gained over the years had moved on. With no music videos to linger around and feed the visually motivated gay community, fans let LastO drift into the distance like a lifeboat at sea.
Now with the release of his 17-track debut “Where’s Vivian” on itunes (now available for $5.99), the rapper is essentially re-introducing himself not only to the gay hip hop fans of the world, but to music fans in general. But to be clear, this is not a gay album.
“My album is not a “gay” album,” the rapper adamantly says. “Gay is sex. You have sex with a man. You have sex with a woman. Gay has a culture because of society’s preoccupation with trying to ostracize us. That oppression unified us and created a community with a vernacular and etc. This album is the story of a man who lost something and was lucky enough to regain it.”
So how does the album stack up? In the wake of Kendrick Lamar’s “Control” verse, Hip Hop has remembered that lyrics reign supreme. LastO vigorously steps up to this challenge with bars of verses that could easily be held up against any M.C. signed to a major label. Gone (for the most part) are gimmicky tracks meant to get to attention of the sex-crazed gay fans that reward artists for rapping explicit gay pornography over the real everyday challenges of men in general.
“Where’s Vivian” is a wild, sometimes disjointed, introspective ride that gives you a full lyrical picture of an artist’s growth over the last 4 years…all done out-of-pocket without label support. The album demonstrates that the extended hiatus was actually more than worth the wait. This is not only the best best Hip Hop album ever from an openly gay rapper, its also one of the best independent Hip Hop albums released in all of 2013.
1. Bitches Be Like
The album starts with a 20-second skit in which LastO makes it clear that he knows how great the task is ahead of him. He came on the scene strong and then disappeared. The number one question he heard over the years had to be, “Do you still rap?” LastO gives his appropriately blunt response.
2. 34th or 42nd
Over what initially sounds like a re-imagining of the theme from the Halloween films, LastO effortlessly flows over the melodic beat with staccato bullets in the form of lyrics. Tight futuristic production highlights the new direction and confidence of the artist. Here he bluntly reminds the fans (and haters) who he is and why he’s the best. Straight up hip hop.
“Got themselves a GED in making them lil mp3s/
I got a degree, doctorate: a PhD/
In here poppin shit/
Play, rewind, then replay me/
Tell these muhfuckas how I do!”
3. Candy Clouds (w/ Jocelyn Medina)
The title of this song already tells you what direction the song would be headed in…It sounds super sweet and the lyrics are even sweeter. Here LastO speaks on being a young black gay man in Hip Hip over a chaotic beat that’s just as sporadic as the verses.
“You a thug, but yo jeans tight/
Which means gay niggas made mainstream/
With one ace up a sleeve/
Find you a wing you can wait in/
Get in that wing; do ya wait thing.”
To make the song even more schizophrenic, the hook features singer Jocelyn Medina crooning about teary rain drops falling from Candy Clouds. The hip hop adrenaline house-fire induced with the previous track is quickly doused to embers with Candy Clouds. Nope, Track Skipped.
4. Come Around Summer / Summerlude
“Come Around Summer” thankfully brings us back to hip hop braggadocio. LastO speeds through all of the reasons he’s not to be fucked with lyrically. The concept of the song, dominating a summer musically. This is a fairly basic track that while not amazing, it diligently mops up the unwanted candy cloud tears spilled in the previous track. No complaints here.
The song slowly fades out and the melodic tune from “Summerlude” quietly sneaks into the speakers…Then the beat drops:
LastO barely catches a breath as in one verse he clears up any doubt of his lyrical prowess. If only the entire track was this much of a punch to the gut.
“I toots my own – brag a lot/
I gots this fanbase that just may boo and moan/
now that I’ve changed it up/
I’m LastO — formerly Offence/
the one that they done told you ’bout/
Who screaming they the best?
I got this flow that shuts they open mouth/
5. I’m Ur S.s.
Electronic synths weave high and low as “I’m Ur S.s” builds, bringing us back to a futuristic sound helping to separate the album from typical mainstream rap. LastO continues to display his lyrical dexterity with a tongue-twisting first verse harkening back to his Mid-Western roots.
Surprisingly, this hardcore hip hop track is a romantic love song where the artist spits about finding someone he digs and works hard to keep.
“I’m a good ass nigga with a good ass job/
Not a hood ass nigga I abide by laws/
I ‘Hi. Bye’ ya’ll ole peezy head niggas/
Not 5″5 tall, I am 5″11/
I am hot, on fire, dial 9-1-1/
If I see and I like then I might buy one/
You can see by the gear that I might got funds”
While the second verse loses a lot of lyrical steam, the overall song works and sets a good tone for the rest of the album.
6. Dream Wild (w/ Sony Cobain & Ashley Liverman) / Twizzalude
For the first time on the album LastO displays an ability not seen from any other openly gay hip hop artist. He can make a Single. The production, structure, tight precise lyrics all merge together like Voltron to synthesize a really great mainstream radio ready track. The “reaching for your dreams” message of the song is positive and universal.
Guest gay rapper Sony Cobain holds his own on the second verse, enough to prompt a few Google searches to build on his own exposure.
Then comes “Twizzalude”, an interlude where rapper TwiZa@ leaves an exaggerated ratchet effeminate gay message on LastO’s voicemail.
The epic, inspirational, hip hop tone of “Dream Wild” is shifted dramatically in a distracting, head-scratching way with this abrasive, unfunny & unnecessary interlude tacked on at the end. The longer it went on the more my head hurt:
7. Travel Planz (w/ TwiZz@)
Here’s possibly the first track that seems like a deliberate attempt at a club banger. More specifically a club banger for the gay fans of LastO. It may not get any club play, but lyrically the track doesn’t disappoint. Both LastO and guest rapper TwiZz@ ride the beat like a gay version of UGK or 8Ball and MJG.
The hook shouts, “Miami in May, Labor Day in Atlanta”, as a reference to the gay men who travel to these cities for Black Gay Pride events. From the beat and hook, “Travel Planz” is possibly the gayest track on the album but lyrically its still straight up Hip Hop.
TwiZz@ in particular shines as he thankfully focuses his bars not on gay men or “travel planning” but on why his skills on the mic are not to be questioned or tested. He’s a beast on this one, very skilled word player.
However, hearing both of these M.C.s effortlessly go hard on a track so “Gay” gave me serious mixed Hip Hop emotions:
We’re back to the basics. No hooks, No guests…just a rapper and a beat. LastO spits from the heart about everything from politics to being an isolated artist to the pressure of living up to his past buzz to former management wanting him to “fem it up” for exposure…Everything is left on the field.
The dark, moody production appropriately emphasizes the artist’s raw emotion and struggle as LastO spills it all out on the Hip Hop psychiatrist’s couch.
“Take a moment/
LO breathe and don’t flip./
Cause it’s gon be alright/
Fuck the hinderance/
You could do this shit with simply bars alone.”
9. For Tonight
Showing more of his growth and maturity, LastO dedicates “For Tonight” to monogamy and finding that one person to share himself with. Musically, the production telegraphs the mood a bit too heavily with the xylophone bells looping on the track. By the time the hook comes in all is forgiven as LastO continues to show off his growing ability to create catchy hooks, something not seen by most gay rap artists.
“Aye which arrangement should we do?/
Should we just pay up?/
Or should I do that pre-nup?/
We could share this apartment/
As long as they got a locksmith to come and make that key up/
You know my government…other shit/
In your rolodex is the address where my mother live.”
10. Live To Hate
Another track showing off LastO’s evolved skill at penning melodic hooks. The tight production never gets in the way of the vocals and the tone of the song, one where the artist celebrates his own success despite the naysayers.
Mid-Westerners out there: If you play this funky, catchy joint loud enough in your speakers and you might just find yourself clapping your hands and busting a Drake out of nowhere:
11. Five Finger Discount
Although there’s a lot going on here, there’s not much substance behind the curtain. LastO really tries hard to make this track work from unusual Nascar sound effects to simulated chants from crowd.
Calling this a filler track is even too much of a compliment for this song. It feels like an archived track from “Not For Non- Profit” that was accidentally mastered on the new album. This was a miss.
We’re back to the Hip Hop shit. Lyrics and a Beat. This may just be a short interlude but it’s still one of the strongest songs on the album. It shows what LastO is capable of when he steps outside of the box and experiments with his flow and beat selection. LastO is always in his element when he brings the raw braggadocio synonymous with Hip Hop.
“I’m the finest grapes from the grapevine/
Savignon of that Cabernet/
Now if you want good wine then it has to age/
I got a list of wants but that only fills up half the page/
Got a list of cunts/
Disk full…. one gig away…”
“Came here four years ago to do real shit/
The realest thing about me sir is I’m a weirdo/
Listen close you can hear it tho/
Some of these niggas come here for that real shit.”
Real Shit, Indeed.
13. BlackManLifeSpan / 40Lude
While the song “BlackManLifeSpan is grand in musical scope with a cool unique concept, it feels a bit too redundant halfway through. The hook is melodic and catchy and the idea of LastO being a black man with a life span of only 67 years (too few to waste on haters) is clever, each of his three verses sound interchangeable and repetitive.
Unlike “WhereIsSheLude”, this was one of the few songs that actually should have been just an interlude. Patiently waits for the next track to finally start:
14. Pour A 40
This is what I’m talking about! LastO giving a lil something for the trap music fans (like me) of the world and holding his own at it. Who even cares what the song is about…when that beat drops it just makes you wanna go:
Unfortunately, LastO makes the mistake of trying to squeeze too many lyrics in the first verse, that’s not what trap music is about. Trap is about riding the beat with ignorance and brevity. By the time he gets to the second verse he seems to remember what kind of music he’s making as his raps thankfully become shorter and more staccato.
15. Will’N’Jada (w/ Ashley Liverman)
Ending the album back on this grown-man-shit, LastO gives us yet another song focusing on relationships and spending quality time with that special someone.
On “Will’N’Jada” the production, arrangement and engineering truly demonstrates how many light years away this album is from any other put out by a gay rap artist. Released by any other artist, this would be a muddled, over-modulated mess.
Singer Ashley Liverman does a fantastic job playing to ‘Jada’ to LastO’s ‘Will’ as they tango on the romantic track without ever stepping on each other’s toes. Very dope track.
16. I’m Ur S.s. Pt. 2
More of LastO showing his sensitive lover side. Since his first mixtape, he’s never been a rapper afraid to admit that he’s looking for love, like just about everyone else. On this album, it demonstrates that he’s either found love already or he’s very close to it.
With no Hook, he effectively rides the beat and cleverly describes the things he wants to say and do to that special someone without needing to lower himself to explicit pornography.
17. Hunnid-Yard Stare
LastO closes the album out with a bouncy bass-heavy track to ride out to with your volume on 10. By the time you get to the catchy hook, your shoulders start having a mind of their own:
LastO closes the album that was four years in the making and likely cost thousands of well spent dollars with the simple words to the former gay hip hop competition that he can now leave in the dust, “All they mugs is on me, I don’t look at the niggas, look past the niggas, like a hundred miles away…”
If “Where’s Vivian” is the start of LastO’s leap from Junior Varsity to College Ball, then the next four years should definitely be highlight worthy. Time to set your DVRs to record.
– Nick Delmacy