Review: August Alsina, ‘Downtown: Life Under the Gun’


August Alsina, Downtown- Life Under the Gun © Def Jam

August Alsina Is One Tough Mudda mudda on Downtown

August Alsina • Downtown: Life Under the Gun • US Release Date: August 20, 2013

August Alsina first thrilled me on a single I just happened to purchase out of curiosity on iTunes, “I Luv This Sh*t”.  To me, the single was mmm mmm good, not because of the ghetto title, but because of the relaxed, moody production and Alsina’s voice itself.  Nah, I wouldn’t call August Alsina the next great R&B/pop-rapper by any means – it could be said those types come a dime a dozen – but I do see potential and definitely appreciate the narratives he offers on Downtown: Life Under the Gun

August Alsina in Concert at Power 99's Performance Theatre in Bala Cynwyd - May 31, 2013 Power 99's Performance Theatre Bala Cynwyd, PA, USA 05/31/2013 © Paul Froggatt / PR Photos
August Alsina in Concert at Power 99’s Performance Theatre in Bala Cynwyd – May 31, 2013 Power 99’s Performance Theatre Bala Cynwyd, PA, USA 05/31/2013 © Paul Froggatt / PR Photos

 

Hell On Earth” sets the tone of the street-savvy EP.  Alsina sings of his hardships in hard-edged, honest fashion.  Though nothing particularly innovative, but the two and half minute intro is sound enough.  “Downtown” featuring Kidd Kidd (on verse three) is the first ‘full length’ track, with Alsina delivering capably in autobiographical fashion. “No one told me life would be this way…”, he sings on the pre-chorus, going on to the chorus singing “People dying every day, that ain’t nothing new when you from downtown, downtown / I’m just trying to make a way, I won’t let these n***as take me downtown…” Miserable it may be lyrically, “Downtown” is charming because of its realness and Alsina’s solid vocals.

Survival of the Fittest” continues on the street-wise trek, breaking a record it seems for its use of the n-word.  The message makes perfect sense; Alsina is going to run with his homies and not those lame lames who aren’t his homies, to clean it up. I get it, but the repetitive use of any single word grows old pretty quick.

August Alsina in Concert at Power 99's Performance Theatre in Bala Cynwyd - May 31, 2013 Power 99's Performance Theatre Bala Cynwyd, PA, USA 05/31/2013 © Paul Froggatt / PR Photos
August Alsina in Concert at Power 99’s Performance Theatre in Bala Cynwyd – May 31, 2013 Power 99’s Performance Theatre Bala Cynwyd, PA, USA 05/31/2013 © Paul Froggatt / PR Photos

But atonement arrives gloriously in the explicit, but great single “I Luv This Sh*t” featuring Trinidad James.  Sure, I could do without the molly-loving MC, even if his third verse suits this cut’s vibe, but I can’t complain much about thesong itself. Yeah, Alsina has one foul mouth, but his real talk mixed with the slower, horn-accentuated production is a match made in heaven, if a blasphemous one (“God dammit I love it, I love it… So I’mma keep on smoking cause I love this sh*t / I’mma keep on griding cause I love this sh*t / she tell me keep f*cking cause I love this sh*t and I love it…”)

Let Me Hit That” lays all the cards out on the table, which incites varying opinions.  We live in a brash time in music among other things, so it not shocking that Alsina is upfront about sex.  That said, it’s not exactly as romantic as the love-centric sound of the production suggests, particularly on the refrain where ole boy sings “Baby let me hit that super loud / super strong, super green, got me super gone…” Then there’s that line from verse two in which he sings “Now you look good enough to eat…” Read into that how you wish.

On “Ghetto”, one gets the notion that maybe Alsina, despite his rough background, indulges too much into the street on this EP.  Here, he seems to glorify ‘her’ as he sings “…ain’t afraid to let them know / baby, go on let them know / you are the ghetto / let them know, you from the ghetto…” Maybe the sense of pride that Alsina suggests is about being honest about one’s roots, but perhaps he over glorifies it here.

August Alsina in Concert at Power 99's Performance Theatre in Bala Cynwyd - May 31, 2013 Power 99's Performance Theatre Bala Cynwyd, PA, USA 05/31/2013 © Paul Froggatt / PR Photos
August Alsina in Concert at Power 99’s Performance Theatre in Bala Cynwyd – May 31, 2013 Power 99’s Performance Theatre Bala Cynwyd, PA, USA 05/31/2013 © Paul Froggatt / PR Photos

 

Penultimate cut “Don’t Forget About Me”atones, delivering some fine contemporary R&B production work and a well rounded performance from Alsina.  The interlude at the end of the cut, in which Alsina talks about his murdered brother is heavy, yet adds more meaningfulness to the overall EP.

Closer “Nobody Knows” doesn’t quite reach the same loftiness of “Don’t Forget About Me”, but Alsina’s truths definitely make one relate more to his music (“Now everybody ran out with their hand out / maybe cause I stand out / see me in the videos / thinking that I’m cashing out…”).

Overall, Downtown: Life Under the Gun is a nice introduction to August Alsina.  I appreciate the autobiographical nature as well as much of the edginess.  That said, I also think that Alsina shouldn’t let the ‘street’ rule his career or full-length album.  It’s fine and even appreciate to be tough, but laying off some of the profanity wouldn’t hurt the least.

Favorites: “Downtown”; “I Luv This Sh*t”; “Don’t Forget About Me” 

http://rd.io/x/QUKSLiJt5Bc/

★★★½

Photo credits: © Def Jam, © Paul Froggatt / PR Photos
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