Tardy Album Review | Calvin Valentine – Napkins

This album was released for free on June 6th this year. I actually hadn’t heard of Calvin Valentine until last year when he released his second album of 2018, Keep Summer Safe, under Mello Music Group. Even though he was signed to MMG, I chose not to check out the album because of his name and the cover art. It’s admittedly pretty stupid on my part, but for some reason I was under the assumption that he made Pop music. I don’t know why the album cover and his name gave me that impression. Towards the end of the year, he dropped a remix to one of the songs from that album with Chuck Inglish, and I thought it was pretty solid. I recently went back and checked out most of his albums, and I think he’s okay. I like his production, and his rapping is okay. He’s just not the kind of artist I would get excited about. He reminds me a lot of Mac Miller, Dom Kennedy, Casey Veggies, etc. I’m just not into that style of music. I have enjoyed a solid amount of his recent work though. I think Plush Seats is my favorite solo project from him. Well actually, the instrumental version of Eugene is my favorite album from him. I only heard a few tracks from the regular version, but I think Calvin’s singing sounds really bad, so I turned it off and downloaded the instrumentals. Again, I think he’s a good producer. That’s his greatest strength in my opinion. Anyway, I wasn’t really excited about this newer album personally, but I was curious about it. Unless I’m mistaken, he dropped it for free as a surprise with no promotion at all. I thought the fact that it was free would make people more interested, but I literally haven’t seen a single other person talking about it. I guess that might be reason to be concerned, but, to be fair, I actually don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone else talking about Calvin Valentine in general. He said that this is his favorite solo album that he’s ever made, so I’m really hoping that I feel the same. I’m writing this preamble before listening to it by the way. I’m gonna start doing that more. I like having my pre-listen thoughts written out and then seeing how they contrast with my actual opinion of the record. I think this’ll be a decent to good album, but I’m not expecting greatness.

This album thankfully did end up being a lot better than I was expecting. I completely agree with Calvin; this is definitely the best thing he’s ever done. If his future work is gonna be like this, then I’ll be looking forward to it for sure. There’s actually not a single track on this project that I don’t like, so I’ll talk about it in the proper order of the tracklist. The first song, Cal Val Venis, really caught me off guard. I was not expecting this sound from Calvin at all. Based on the other recent stuff I’d heard from him, I was expecting more DāM-FunK style Electro-Funk inspired stuff. Instead, this beat sounds really gritty & lo-fi. I’m glad he went in this direction because I’m not really crazy about that other sound. This sounds like something Nolan the Ninja would kill. As far as the content on this whole album goes, it’s pretty much what you’d expect after looking at the cover art. I don’t really find music about marijuana particularly interesting personally, but I think Calvin does it well. He at least sounds good rapping and has some nice beats to do it over. His flow is dope, and I love the production. It’s a dope song. I think I might like the following track even more. I really love the soulful production; it sounds really warm and comforting. Calvin’s flow on this track is cool too. It’s another really dope song. It just feels like a fun summer night in which your chilling with your friends and having a great time. The following track, Blue Mini Discs, is the best song up to this point on the album in my opinion.

I don’t think the instrumental is amazing or anything, although I do like it. I just think Calvin’s actual rapping is what makes it stand out for me. Again, the content isn’t that interesting to me personally, but his flow is really great, especially on the final verse. He sounds great. The next track, JK, is probably my least favorite song on the album. It’s not bad at all. I like it. I just don’t think it’s nearly as good as any of the others. Nothing about it really stands out that much. I think if I liked the production more I’d feel differently, but the beat doesn’t impress me that much. I think Calvin sounds good over it though. It’s a cool track, but definitely not a highlight for me. The following song, Creek, is another one of my favorites. I really love the production. The weird vocal sample kinda sounds like Francis & the Lights, but it actually sounds great. Calvin’s flow on this track is really great too. Again, the content isn’t really that interesting to me, but it sounds really good. I fuck with the song. It’s dope. I feel the same way about Mason Jar as I did about JK. It’s definitely one of the weakest songs on the album. I still think it’s cool though. I do like how smooth the production is, and the background vocals from Danielle Henderson sound pretty nice. Calvin’s actual rapping kinda just fades into the background for me whenever I listen to the song. I find myself focusing more on the production. It’s still a cool track though. I definitely like it. It’s just not a standout song for me. I actually feel kinda the same way about the title track. I like it more than Mason Jar, but it’s not a favorite of mine. However, I really love the beat, and Calvin’s flow is pretty nice. It’s a dope song. The final three tracks are my favorites on the album though. He really ended this project on a strong note. The beat on Port Land is fucking awesome. It’s kind of a strange track. I usually really don’t like Calvin’s singing, but his strange vocals fit over this beat really well. I like the hook a lot. The song is awesome to me. The following track, Chocolate Phillies, is even better though. The production is amazing to me. It’s one of the best beats I’ve ever heard from Calvin. I love it. It has kind of a sad, reflective atmosphere. There’s really not a single aspect of the song that I dislike. The crazy thing is that I love the following song even more. Jansport is definitely the best song I’ve ever heard from Calvin Valentine. The production is incredible. The song is so much better than I ever would’ve expected from him. Again, the content isn’t super relatable or anything like that. It’s just really well done though. His flow is great, and you can tell he really took his time with the writing process. I love it. It’s dope af. 😀

This album is actually pretty great. It’s way better than I was expecting honestly. I don’t personally think it’s one of the best albums I’ve heard this year, but it’s definitely one of the most slept on projects of 2019. Calvin isn’t a super technical MC with really esoteric lyricism whose music you have to listen to 100 times to understand. He just makes really chill, fun music to smoke to. I think there are two reasons I like this, but can’t get into artists like Mac Miller or Curren$y. First of all, I don’t think Calvin Valentine has a terrible voice. I instantly fall asleep whenever Mac or Curren$y start rapping. Calvin’s voice isn’t super strong or attention grabbing, but it’s not comatose either. The other aspect of his rapping that I like more is his flow. He actually sounds great. He doesn’t sound like he’s just saying random shit that pops into his head. It sounds like he puts effort into it. Is the content super deep or interesting? No. It’s well executed though. I’m actually surprised by how much I dig this album because I typically don’t love stuff like this. I’m really satisfied with this album though and I’ll be really happy if he somehow manages to top this album in the future. Stop sleeping on this album. It’s dope.

Favorite Song: Jansport
Least Favorite Song: JK


Grade: B+

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