Favorite Track: "SeeYouAgain" Least Favorite Track: "UpNAway (feat. BONES)"
Much like many of his ex-Raider Klan and Seshollowaterboyz contemporaries, Ontario native Eddy Baker’s greatest asset has long been his output. Since 2014 he has released a staggering twelve projects and most of his catalog tends to sit a crop above what many underground MC’s in his lane are doing right now. The latest edition to his seemingly never ending string of mini-albums, EP’s, mixtapes, and LP’s is entitled, THE WORST OF TIMES. As the name suggests, this six song project effectively serves as Baker’s take on 2020, a now-familiar concept that plenty of artists have tackled within this chaotic year. In my eyes, his view on the matter is a valiant effort, but THE WORST OF TIMES fails to stand out amongst its sea of contemporaries.
In a manner that draws to mind his 2014 project Badguy 2, THE WORST OF TIMES is best characterized by its larger than life instrumental palette and intriguing production. The Idea here is as obvious as it is consistent, with almost every track pulling beats and ideas from 70's soul and disco. The execution is occasionally there, but some of these beats feel like missed opportunities. In addition to Baker’s self produced instrumentals, this album features his usual laid back and understated delivery, adding an update to the Baker sound that we have heard for the last six years.
This short project opens with “UpNAway (feat. BONES)”, a clear cut, boom-bap, mid-tempo piece. This instrumental sets the stage for soulful things to come with it’s thumping kick drums, spotty synthesizers, and overall 70’s energy, but what Baker delivers above the production does it no justice. The mix here is sloppy to say the least, with Baker’s voice sounding suffocated and nearly un-audible for the majority of the track. He is the clearest and easiest to understand on the hook, but his performance isn’t rewarding at all. Instead, his singing struggles to find a melody and is painfully flat throughout. Thankfully this cut is the project's clear outlier, and what follows it isn’t nearly as troublesome.
Track two, “SeeYouAgain”, is sleek, sexy, and groovy. It see’s Baker venting to listeners about his frustration during the midst of quarantine and how it has kept him from seeing a significant other. He ponders, “Should I take me some shrooms”, before revealing that his motivation for such an act isn’t a psychedelic escape, but rather that he is “tryna take a trip, and the location is you”. Instrumentally, this song’s bassline shines through; a clear and noble callback to 70’s funk. In addition, it’s peppered with beautiful flutes and chimes, further filling out the track's full-fledged groove session. “Wide Awake” is a nearly as funky blend of electronica and disco but features a slightly more abrasive delivery from Baker and a sizable tempo jump. It covers 2020’s political climate of social unrest, adding further detail to Eddy Baker’s view of 2020. To boot, the final moments of the song feature a fun keyboard solo that provides a tad bit more memorability.
“Loyalty (feat. Reddish Blu)” feels less like an Eddy Baker track than it should, as the feature here receives just as much mic time as he does and steals the show quite a bit. Her cutesy, laid back, spacey intro and verse provide a vibe that seems very out of the wheel house of Baker, and his lacking verse validates such an assumption. He seems to struggle to find a fitting flow to compliment the song’s lofi and entrancing atmosphere. The song quickly falls apart, despite the elegant performance from Reddish Blu.
“You&Me” is a rather un-noteworthy closer and certainly doesn’t add much to the back half of THE WORST OF TIMES. It’s otherworldly and cosmic synth-pop instrumental is a little nondescript and rather passive. Baker’s performance doesn’t do too much to help soften it’s blow either. I think that THE WORST OF TIMES has some decent ideas working in its favor. It certainly pulls from places instrumentally that I couldn’t have foreseen Eddy Baker gravitating toward. I think he could have truly done something special here, but the project's blaring flaws are often too distracting to overlook. It saddens me to say that I am slowly losing interest in many artists inhabiting this internet originated realm of underground hip hop. Many artists in this lane seem to be far more interested in pumping out as much content as possible, and less interested in the overall quality of that work. In it’s best moments THE WORST OF TIMES is a lot of fun, but it’s glaring issues often override such enjoyability. There is just about as much to like as there is to dislike but overall the project’s ambitious foundation fails to manifest into anything too interesting.