Blackbear • Help • beartrap • Release Date: 11.27.15
“Don’t stop what you’re doin’, white boy.” Hey, that’s Blackbear’s lyrics, not my assessment of the Hollywood, CA R&B singer. On album Help Blackbear certainly proves he can sing and has both illuminating potential and talent. Is Help enough to propel the indie artist to superstar status? Probably not, but he’s certainly doing something right on Help.
Help opens with “Don’t Stop,” where the opening quote is lifted. Slickly produced moody contemporary R&B, Blackbear is very much part of the Drake universe of R&B – highly influenced with pop-rap. Does it work? – Yep totally. “Oh Lord” is deeper though, thanks to multiple references to “the plug” as well as lyrics like “White on white on white on white” and “All these uppers and downers / I put that sh*t in a blender / I mix that pixy stick powder.”
“Slide Thru” is sex – what else can you say? Blackbear proclaims, “It’s ‘bout that time you slide thru / bring nothing but your p***y and that perfume.” He goes on to characterize her by an old hip-hop cliché – she’s “bad as f**k.” Ultimately it’s predictable but solid, though Jerry Good could’ve avoided the “Mashed potatoes got you creamin’ white” lyric – just saying!
“Paragraphs” continues to embody the draggy contemporary R&B predominant in the 2010s (so weird to write 10s isn’t it). “Paragraphs” is taken from the male perspective with relationship issues. Give Blackbear credit for showcasing vulnerability, even if the profanity almost seems to intensify the masculinity a bit beyond Bear’s troubles.
“Nervous” leans more towards pop-rap, appropriately so given the amplified ‘swagger’ that’s apparent here. With “Nervous” is drenched in swag, it sacrifices any sense of depth – it’s about money, plain and simple. Again, Blackbear does his thing, but that ‘thing’ is predictable.
“Where Was U?” has more oomph and ‘substance,’ with Blackbear expounds upon his demons and ambitions – “These commas up on my mind / always thinkin’ ‘bout M’s…” Ultimately, “Where Was U?” ends up being the classic “No New Friends” scenario because once you ‘come up,’ everybody wants to be your ‘friend’ or wants a piece of you. That’s why Blackbear asks, “Where was you when I was hungry? / Where was you when I was all alone.”
Title track “Help” depicts Blackbear’s struggles with addiction as well as an apparent unwillingness to check into rehab. In the first verse he sings, “And maybe it’s time for divine intervention / but f**k it, I’ll die how I want to.” The reference to Bear’s condition is highlighted once more when Maejor performs his verse conversationally, at one point saying, “I’m worried about you, Bear.”
“Different Hos” is what you expected – about all the “hos” that Blackbear can bag. Nothing new here, so NEXT! Penultimate cut “Verbatim” finds Blackbear concerned about ‘her’ health: “And you’ve been on too long, girl / that cocaine make you crazy.” His answer – “I’mma cut you off it that’s what I gotta do.” Closing cut “Hustler” isn’t about drugs (shocking), but rather monogamy and coming up. Give Blackbear for ending Help with more substance…respectable substance that is.
Ultimately Help is a solid effort. It doesn’t rewrite the R&B script and the topics, though personal, are often tried-and-true. Regardless, Blackbear has lots of potential. Perhaps going beyond the predictable and expected is the next step in his artistic development. But for now, Help works without a hitch.
Favorites: “Don’t Stop,” “Oh Lord,” “Where Was U?” and “Help”