I’ve never been huge on hip-hop. This might ruffle a few feathers, but I’ve long felt it is a genre that is submerged in lazy, quick production and often times it comes across monotonous. It takes someone truly original to snag my attention to the genre. And sadly, for every original “artist,” there are there are 300 impersonators. I say “artist” because even under that moniker, the only “talent” many exude is the ability to rhyme while speaking very quickly.
Like I said, it takes a rather stand-out sound to pique my interest. Coming in the form of Denver based, all-around entertainer, SF1 (aka Shane Franklin) my interest just got hit with a giant bitch-slap of originality. You see, SF1 isn’t hip-hop. No, you’re wrong, he’s not. He is an eclectically powered, true artist who just happens to rhyme in a fast, almost spoken style.
SF1’s Inamorata encapsulates all that can be good with hip-hop. The thirteen track album incorporates harmonies with worldly sounds and then spins it on its head with electronic beats and club vibes then tosses in native drums to spice things up. Not only is this some of the most tolerable hip-hop I’ve heard in some time, it is easily some of the most impressive. The spectacular array of sound comes to a pinnacle with “Rhapsody.” The track, featuring the talented Cleveland Jones, is a stand-up and stand-out song that will spin round and round within your inner musical soul. The record features the talents of Betsy Ruckard, Daj, Chrissie and the beautifully voiced Jenna Moll Reye, but SF1 doesn’t fall into the hellish hole that can be the “featuring:” insignia. It is his talent that soars. When most would lean to the obnoxious, SF1 shines in precision. Inamorata is thirteen surprises lined up nicely one after the other. With an approach like this and the knowhow that is constantly demonstrated within the record, Franklin has a very bright future.
Go ahead, be upset that I think hip-hop is a shallow kiddy-pool where nobody has room to move as they continue to sit in the repetitive stench begging for a massive break. Anyone can make an album, but few will make a second. SF1 deserves an invitation to the deep end of the pool where he can swim with unrestrained artistic freedom and continue to produce his sound. His ability to prove that he earns the title of “All-Around Entertainer” beams through the clouded genre in the form of Inamorata.
I am about to utter six of the most pretentious words of the new digital age: I was listening to a podcast the other day called “Roderick on the Line.” It’s great. On it, Roderick himself was discussing the moment in life he refers to as “finding your duck.” The context being that a well-behaved dog who has been living its ho-hum dog life can be thrust into a higher sense of purpose after instinct kicks in when it discovers a duck. Humans spend their lives trying to find their duck. You know that person who always knew they wanted to be a doctor? They found their duck at an early age.
Denver, you have a resident who found his duck. Shane “SF1” Franklin is a born entertainer and rhyming, poetic machine. He has released his sophomore album Inamorata and it is way ahead of his 23 years of age in terms of emotional clarity. It is one thing to find someone who has worked hard and developed talent to record a tight album; it is something else altogether to come across a natural. When that natural works their ass off to put out a great hip-hop album… man, there is nothing like it.
Produced by Cesar Gonzalez, Inamorata is a concept album about the most abstract of concepts: love. The thirteen songs track a relationship from meeting on the title track, sexual “Tension”, the highest of highs on “Rhapsody,” the emotional wrenching of breaking up on “Raw” and “Madman” to reconciling on the outro: “Permanent.” SF1 employs his staccato rhymes and powerful similes and metaphors (from being a pilot or riding a magic carpet on “Fly Away” or sexual tension “swarming me like many bees and stinging me”) against a blend of hip-hop, Cuban, Middle Eastern, and pop. Each song has hook layered upon hook and incredibly even; I had a hard time finding tracks that I wanted to skip over.
As a concept album, I love it. There are some third act problems as the “rollercoaster of love” goes from pain in “Raw” and “Madman” to redemption in “Permanent” a little quickly, but SF1 captures the emotion of each relationship stage with deftness. This album is so addictive on so many levels.
Love hip-hop? Love Inamorata. It is the fruits of the labor of a born entertainer, one with the ability to capture the attention of the most critical of us. When one of us finds our duck, it is a beautiful thing.
Note: as of the date of this review – November 28th – There are 8 days left on SF1’s Kickstarter page to develop a video for “Rhapsody.” The song is awesome and deserves a video to match. He also has some creative donation gifts (Tap dance lessons? Hell yeah).