Albert J (formerly known as f.o.c.u.s.) is an American hip-hop recording artist residing in Tampa Florida. Moving through Maryland, DC, Virginia, NC, California and now Florida, Albert J got to experience a lot of diverse music and inspirations. From bands ranging from Sigur Ros and Coldplay to Linkin Park and Incubus, as well as many Hip-Hop influences from DMX, Kid Cudi, Mos Def and Busta Rhymes, Albert J grew up with a wide palette of sound. His 3 mixtapes “Youth Religion” (Dec 2013) “Remember” (March 2014) and “YR2” (April 2015), garnered serious attention in the Hip-hop scene, finally leading up to his debut album release “Grow” which dropped on June 28 2019. The project showcases production by Leto Beats and features from Dlyric and Black Montreal Grow.
If you like bubblegum auto-tune mumble rap, you should keep it moving because this is not that type of music, this is the real thing. The problem with a lot of rap records that embrace both aural diversity and true inspiration is that they often feel lopsided. Here, that is not the case as great care was taken by Albert J to keep his soul on the table and his mind on his pen.
He’s resonant flow keeps his vocal sitting above the boom in the mix and alongside the strings, keys and synths that drive the mixes of these songs. More often than not, the tracks land with a punch-counterpunch effect as the instrumentals extremely while well-crafted, are just one part of the show here.
Albert J who may be somewhat underrated, is a thoughtful hip-hop showman that can hang with anyone, technically and lyrically. And he hangs with quite a few features on “Grow”. Regardless of the topic, you can count on Albert J to insert thoughtful jewels into any banger or anthem.
He comes out the gate strong with the first track on the album, showing off his ability to use his incomparable skills with the pen to paint vivid images of his life episodes. “Slick (Trippin)” confirms the first impression, while the grooving drive of “Problem” ft. Amanda Patterson, presents the album’s first real highlight.
Running through “Stop Playin” ft. Black Montreal, “Gimme That” ft. Kennedy Blvd and “Listen” ft. Corinnne Hinds, Leto &Sone, Albert J, seems to be using this album to flex his versatility, as he secures a marketable sound while still remaining this side of alternative. Something he endorses on the standouts “Out of Sight” and “Take Me Away”.
On “Random Thoughts”, Albert J gives us a catchy hook and a tale of perseverance over a bass-laden beat with a ratchety hi-hat bounce, before launching into the bitter affliction of “The Breakup”. Flat out, this track is pure fire. But then so is “Rise” ft. Black Montreal. No doubt, this album is a courageous effort by Albert J to secure a sound that will hopefully set him up for long-term success in the industry.
As the album grinds to an end with the poignant and soulful “Used To Be”, it’s clear that a complete ride has been taken. While in 2019 there are artists that are still drawing attention to themselves for silly gimmicks, Albert J and a handful of thoughtful contemporaries have been contributing work with classic potential.
Albert J has dispensed an effort that will artistically contend for best of the year honors with a collective of players that made it their personal business to generate a real rap renaissance.