This album was released on November 27th this year. ElCamino is one of the more well-known artists in 38 Spesh‘s Trust Army crew, due to him having a lot of features on Griselda projects in the past. I’ve listened to about four of his albums, and I’ve liked everything I’ve heard. However, he’s never released a project that I would say is truly great. I’m usually satisfied, albeit not super impressed. My favorite project from him so far is definitely Martyr’s Prayer, which came out this past February, and was also entirely produced by 38 Spesh. That one is really good. Anyway, I’m hoping this project will be his best one so far, but I’m not setting unreasonable expectations. I’m really just expecting more of the same, but maybe he’ll surprise me and switch things up a bit. I haven’t really been that impressed by 38 Spesh’s production in the past, so hopefully he steps things up a bit here too. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think his beats are bad. They just haven’t been super memorable to me in the past. Maybe he’ll change my mind with this album though. Oh, by the way, I gotta give a shoutout to Manuel Concepcion for creating one of the dopest album covers I’ve seen all year. That shit is awesome.
As always, I’ll write about the songs I liked first before getting into my critiques later on in the review. The opening track is called Hammers on the Hip. The production here from 38 Spesh is actually pretty damn good to be honest. In fact, I think his beats on this project are definitely an improvement over what he’s done in the past. There’s really only one verse from ElCamino on this track, but I think it’s pretty good.
You never see me, but you hear me through your stereo
How we came from poverty, it's like a miracle
How we travel the world, shit is like a Merry Go
How my business mind put me in better scenarios
And less bullshit
Niggas listen to me when I preach in that pulpit
I could teach youngin' a thing or two, but his mind gone
He focused on hoes, he can't put down his iPhone
It’s not an amazing verse or anything, but I definitely enjoyed it. I think his sung hook on this track is pretty damn good too. He’s a good singer in my opinion. He’s not gonna blow anyone away with his vocals, but he sounds a lot better than I would have expected him to. His voice is really smooth. Unfortunately, instead of spitting a second verse he decided to just talk in between the first and second recital of the hook, and it just isn’t very interesting to listen to. As a result, this is the longest song on the album, and it feels a little lazy. It’s still only 3 minutes and 25 seconds though. It certainly doesn’t ruin the song for me, but it definitely makes it less replayable. I think at the very least he should have gotten 38 Spesh to rap where the second verse should have been. The song is still good to me, but it’s definitely flawed. The next track that I enjoyed is called Don’t Know. Once again, I was actually very pleased with the production. Lyrically, the song is pretty conventional. It’s just typical posturing that you can expect from any Gangsta Rap artist these days. I still like it though.
Always gettin' whooped just 'cause you ain't paid dues
I'm the type of nigga that's gon' always slide through
Paint your ass red just like you a fuckin' piru
My bitch keep it bald, remind me of Caillou
He ended up recycling “slide through” to fit that rhyme scheme like 3 or 4 times, but it didn’t bother me too much. I mean, overall his performance definitely feels pretty unseasoned. It was cool though. I liked the melodic hook. Overall, I think the track is pretty good. However, if somebody told me that they didn’t like it at all I would totally understand. Even though I was impressed by the production, it definitely gets old by the time the song ends. I still fuck with the song overall though. The following track is called Hustle Like Me, and I think it’s a lot better. Again, I was impressed by 38 Spesh‘s production here. I actually think this is one of the best beats on the album. This song has one of ElCamino’s best performances too. His verse is pretty good.
How you rich and still puttin' bricks on layaway?
I never cuff, I handle bitches the playa way
Give her dick, then I tell a bitch to stay away
You a trick, you pay your bitch to stay awake
However, the real standout moment is his sung hook. This is easily the best hook on the project, and it’s not even close. He sounds smoother than FUCK here. That shit is catchier than a motherfuck. I love it. I think one more verse definitely would’ve pushed this song to the next level, but it is what it is. I still like the song a lot as it is. It’s very dope. It’s followed by What I Be On.
This sounds like the kinda beat that Nas would’ve rapped over during the Street’s Disciple days. I guess that isn’t exactly a compliment. It’s a fine instrumental, but it’s not something I would get excited about. I don’t mind it though. It works. It’s definitely not the worst beat on the album. Anyway, I think this track has another one of the best performances from ElCamino on this project. He sounds more energetic here than he does on a lot of the other tracks, and his flow is nice. I thought his syntax was a little strange on this line…
20 bands a day, how could the fuck I not be rich?
It’s not even really a gripe for me. I just thought it was kinda strange. The verse is really damn good as a whole.
That nigga had respect out in the streets and then he told
All I could remember is real niggas never fold
Just because it glistens and it glitter, it ain't gold
Just because it glistens and it glitter, it ain't gold
Heavy in the kitchen, yeah, we got it off the stove
We still keep them pistols even though we on parole
It's money on his book, so my nigga's up the road
That's just how you livin' when you stickin' to the code
Again, he’s not really saying anything super unique or original. It’s very typical Gangsta Rap. I think it’s well done though. The song is dope to me. It’s followed by Left Me Hangin’, which for whatever reason isn’t available on Apple Music. I don’t know if it shows up on Spotify or Tidal, but I had to listen to it through Bandcamp. I think it’s pretty good. It unfortunately has the weakest beat on the whole project though. It’s just a super dry, flavorless piano loop. It sounds bizarrely dated to me. The one thing that makes the song enjoyable is the actual rapping. The content here is very emotional. ElCamino uses this song to lament his father’s negligence growing up.
My pops left me hangin', he must think that I ain't need him
All I had was me and dukes, we was barely eatin'
We was either homeless, or the house was freezin'
You was walkin' 'round fresh in your brand new Adidas
You would tuck your chain, ain't want me to see it
You knew we was poor, sleepin' on the floor
Tried to hit your line, but my calls you would ignore
Honestly if the production was better this would most likely be my favorite track because I felt his emotion here. I think the rapping is great. However, as a song it feels a bit underdeveloped. The hook is super lazy, and the production is repetitive as hell. The emotional rapping keeps the song entertaining though.
Another Christmas passed, I ain't get shit
I ain't want shit, we ain't have shit
Just look out for lil sis
Save my lil money just to buy a pair of kicks
Dukes turned fiend, started stressin' nigga out
Doin' shit for my brother, but you left that nigga out
No respect for my mother, so you exed a nigga out
Sixteen holdin' my gun, finna stretch a nigga out
The song is pretty good. It should have been great, but I’ll take what I can get. The penultimate song is called Camino Season. I think the production here is pretty dry, but it’s at least slightly more interesting than that of the aforementioned track. I like ElCamino’s relatively uptempo flow, but the opening quatrain has a pretty questionable line.
Back in '94 was the year it was stars born
Guns drawn, I swear I ain't the plug to run off on
Heavy on the hip, standin' tall on my ACs
In my own lane, don't mention me with niggas that's gay please
That line really caught me off guard. I just don’t understand why he chose to say that. It’s kinda funny because of how dumb it is. It’s annoying though, especially when you consider the fact that he could have just used the word “fake,” which also would’ve fit the rhyme scheme. I don’t know what that’s about. I mean, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised when Gangsta Rap artists are homophobic, but it’s still annoying. Thankfully the rest of the verse is very good.
I'll make you beg for your own life
My shooter 32, and he only been home twice
The market fucked up, so I made up my own price
Kidnap your Earth, I'll make you take your own life
Once again, it is slightly annoying that he recycled “own life” in that rhyme, but I guess that’s just a nitpick. Surprisingly enough, he actually came back in for a second verse, which is very rare. As a result, this pretty much ends up being the longest track. I mean, it’s one second shorter than the opening track, but this one feels more substantial. I could’ve done without that homophobic line in the first verse, but aside from that I really enjoyed this song. I think it’s very good, and definitely one of the better tracks on the album. The closing song is a remix of If You Want It, the opening track from Army of Trust II, which is a compilation from Trust Army. It’s a pretty solid project, so I’d recommend it if you’re a fan of these guys. Anyway, the only real difference is an additional verse from 38 Spesh. The song is pretty good, but it’s far from the best verse I’ve heard from Spesh. It feels kinda like an afterthought to be completely honest. I also think the beat is kinda lame. I still like the song though. I think it’s good. Now I’ll get into the two tracks that I don’t really care for. Track 2 is called The Avenue, and it was released as a single a while ago.
I think the production here is pretty nice, and I even like the sung hook from ElCamino. My issue is that he sings throughout the entire track. I’m sure for some people it won’t be a problem, especially since his singing is pretty good. My problem is that the melody is just super repetitive, and the lyrics aren’t particularly interesting. The song just feels a bit too unadventurous. It sounds more like an interlude than anything. I don’t think it’s bad at all, but it’s just not something I’ll be listening to again in the future. It’s decent though. The following track is called Hold You Up, and it suffers from pretty much the exact same issue. I think the production is nice, and the vocals are good too. I even like the lyrics to be honest. I just don’t think the verses are… I mean, they’re fine I guess. It just feels like it lacks urgency. The repetitive melody and flow just makes it get old really fast. I wouldn’t call it a bad song, but I like it even less than the preceding track. It’s mediocre to me.
This project is just okay to me. Honestly, I’m a little disappointed. This is my least favorite ElCamino project that I’ve heard. It doesn’t really live up to the amazing album cover at all. It just doesn’t sound like he spent that much time on it. A lot of these songs feel undercooked. I think 38 Spesh is definitely improving as a producer, but I wish everyone in his crew would flesh out their songwriting capabilities. They’re good rappers, but I don’t think they’re great at making memorable songs. Almost every track feels like a freestyle to be honest. It’s rare to get more than one verse. There’s not a single track here that I would say is bad, but there also aren’t really any major highlights. The day we get an ElCamino song with a fleshed out hook and three full verses is the day Hell freezes over. I hope that happens sooner rather than later. I’d say this project is worth checking out if you’re already a fan, but it’d be a really bad first impression to be honest. I’m positive that Music Twitter would deem this album “mid.” I’m glad I listened to it because there is some good material here, but it’s a fairly inessential release in ElCamino’s catalogue. It’s just okay to me.