Album Review | Angry Blackmen – HEADSHOTS!

This album was released on October 2nd this year. Angry Blackmen are a duo from Chicago comprised of rappers Quentin Branch & Brian Warren. I first found out who they were when they messaged my troll account on Twitter and wanted to know my thoughts on their debut single. If you wanna get the full history of my experience with them, I suggest reading my review of their first project, Talkshit! Anyway, my opinion of them going into this project was basically that they had a cool vision with a very underdeveloped style. They’re a lesser known act that I want to see succeed though, and so far it seems like they’ve figured out how to snowball their success. They’re a lot bigger now than they were when they initially messaged me about two years ago. Anyway, I wasn’t expecting this to be one of my favorite albums of the year, but I did feel pretty confident that there would at least be some moderately enjoyable material. Every single track is produced by Gary G Beats.

I’m gonna talk about the songs I liked before getting into the tracks I didn’t care for later on in this review. The first real song is called PROPAGANDA!, and it’s basically a solo track from Quentin. I’m not really sure how I feel about Gary G Beats as a producer personally. I think his instrumentals tend to sound a little cheap, but not necessarily bad. It just kinda sounds like it was made in Garageband. I really like how fast paced the percussion is on this song though. It’s a lot livelier than I was expecting it to be. It sounds like pure adrenaline. The opening verse is pretty solid. I don’t really think any of the lyrics are that interesting, but they’re sufficient. It’s really Quentin’s energetic delivery that helps sell it. Since he’s the less proficient MC in the group his flow isn’t really too impressive or anything, but it works. The second verse was nothing special, but I didn’t really mind it too much. I don’t really love anything in particular about the track, but I did enjoy it to some extent. I guess I really just like the fast paced, energetic percussion. I think that’s the one thing that helps it stand out. It’s a pretty good track to me. Track 4 is called RAGE!, and it’s a major highlight. It’s a solo track from Brian Warren, and he killed this shit. I actually really like the heavy, yet bouncy instrumental from Gary G Beats, and I think Brian was able to match its energy perfectly. His flow was awesome, and I love how genuinely angry he sounds during certain parts of his verse. He was spazzing. I actually have zero gripes with the song at all honestly. I think it’s dope af. The 6th track on the album is ATOMIC!

This one has a really dark, distorted sounding beat. I actually think it’s very good. The opening verse from Brian actually wasn’t that great to me lyrically, but I liked his delivery a lot. I think he sounded good. There’s not really a hook on the song. There’s just an audio clip of what sounds like some old white guy speaking in the 1960s. One thing I came to realize throughout my listening experience of this record is that Quentin pretty much only has one flow. It’s virtually the same on every single track, so that was a little disappointing, and unfortunately this is where I first started noticing it. I actually preferred his verse over that of Brian from a lyrical standpoint though to be honest. Brian’s bars weren’t bad, but they just didn’t really stand out. This quatrain from Quentin definitely jumped out at me though.

On my Michael Ealy flow
But my skin black as fuck
Slidin' in her DM though
"Heard your mans was a cuck"

I was not expecting that line. I fuck with it though. That’s some foul ass shit to do. Those are fightin’ words for real. Anyway, I think the song is pretty good overall. I obviously had my gripes with it, but I enjoyed it as a whole. The closing song is called PROTOCOL!, and I covered it the week it dropped as the album’s lead single.

This shit is dope too. They really grew into their sound and developed their style. The loud, heavy, Electronic production is really cool. The opening verse from Quentin Branch was pretty nice. You can still tell he hasn’t been rapping as long as Brian Warren, but he’s definitely made a lot of improvements. The hook is pretty simplistic, but I actually like it a lot. I think it works really well. Brian killed that second verse. His flow was tight as fuck. I was hooked the whole time. Again, I’m really happy to see these guys gaining so much steam, and I can’t wait to see how this album turns out. It’s scheduled for release on October 2nd, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

Those are all the tracks I like, so now I’ll get into my issues with the album. I’ve already mentioned my main gripe a couple times so far, but hopefully I don’t sound like a broken record. Anyway, the opening track is called DREAM!, and it’s just an intro in which some British woman named Amy Farrer kinda explains who the members of the group are. I’m not gonna lie, I thought this shit was lame. It kinda reminded me of Nicki Minaj’s intro to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which I always found to be corny as fuck. This track thankfully isn’t quite that bad, but I didn’t enjoy it at all. Track 3 is called DANCE!, and this one is kind of a frustrating song for me. I think the audio clip that they sampled at the very beginning of the song in which they have what sounds like a minstrel show character saying “WATCH ME DANCE!” is really cool. I kinda wish they used that as the hook, but it only came during the intro. It comes on one more time at the end of the song, but it’s not chopped up the same way. Anyway, the actual beat itself isn’t really anything special to me to be honest, but I don’t think it’s bad. The opening verse from Brian is pretty good, although definitely not his best performance on the album. I unfortunately didn’t really care for Quentin’s verse. Again, his flow is very repetitive, and I just don’t think the writing is very good to be honest.

Spittin' bars vocally
Come and get a dose of me
Angry black man run the world 'til we globally
Get in line orderly then listen to authority
Bitch nigga ain't no ignorin' me

This kinda looks like something I’d write in middle school. I also just think that it’s a little hard to take some of these lines seriously, especially when it has this angry, tense vocal delivery.

Been a savage nigga since a nigga was around 8
Had a little round face, little bitty brown face
Nappy ass hair, big nose, little round shape

I feel pretty comfortable classifying these as “struggle bars” to be honest. I just don’t find it entertaining or interesting at all. I don’t think the song is bad, but it’s not something I’d return to. Same goes for the penultimate song, which is called CALIGULA! It has one of the coolest percussion loops on the record. The beat unfortunately doesn’t really evolve very much as the song progresses, but I still think it’s kinda cool. Once again, Quentin uses the same flow and delivery that he used on every other song. Him and Brian trade verses on this track, so they both kinda stick to the same cadence. I think Brian sounded pretty angry on this one, so that was cool. I just don’t find anything about the song to be particularly interesting personally. It’s not a bad song to me, but I wouldn’t return to it. It’s just okay to me. Same goes for the title track, HEADSHOTS!, which pops up almost exactly halfway through the album.

I think the energetic production is pretty cool, and the first verse from Brian is solid. I just don’t care for the hook at all. It’s not unlistenable or anything; I just don’t find it very entertaining. It just feels like a waste of time more than anything. I don’t care for Quentin’s verse on this track either unfortunately. That flow just gets so tiresome. Again, the song is fine. It just lacks replay value for me. I guess it’s a good thing that I can say that about all the songs I don’t care for. None of them are actually bad. They just lack replay value.

This album is pretty cool. Despite my comments about the lead single, I don’t really think ABM have completely proven themselves. They’re definitely onto something, but they still sound wet behind the ears. The production sounds very DIY, but it works for the most part. Brian is still easily the best MC in the group, but I actually think Quentin has a more recognizable voice. He almost sounds like the face of the group to be honest. I think that once he’s able to develop his flow a bit more and learn to sound less repetitive these guys will have much more success because that’s definitely the record’s Achilles’ heel. They do sound pretty angry on most of these tracks, but sometimes the lyrics don’t really match the aggressive tone. I want them to sound enraged. I want them to sound like they’re fighting while rapping. I think this is a good start, and I’m hoping they’re able to step everything up even further on future releases. I know I was pretty critical of this project, so I do wanna stress that I think it’s good. There’s definitely a lot of room for improvement though, and I wanna make sure I clarify what it is so we can see the growth on their next project. This shit is good though. I fuck with it.



Grade: B-


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