Album Review | Fatboi Sharif & noface – Preaching in Havana

This album was released on my 24th birthday, which was October 27th this year. I first discovered Fatboi Sharif in 2020 a few months before he released his acclaimed collaborative album with Roper Williams, Gandhi Loves Children. It was really clear to me that Sharif was a unique, one of a kind artist when I heard that album, but he kinda took it to the next level when he dropped Cyber City Society. That project is really fucking unorthodox. There’s really nobody out there who sounds like Fatboi Sharif. There aren’t many artists taking as many risks and creating music as unique as his. I feel like if you’re into abstract, experimental Hip Hop, Fatboi Sharif is a must-listen artist. He’s like, the next big guy in that category as far as I can tell. You can’t really expect a traditional Hip Hop experience when you listen to him because there’s nothing out there that sounds like him. Each project that I’ve heard from him kinda has a different feel to it, so I kinda had no idea what to expect before listening to this project. I don’t think I’d heard any of noface’s production before checking this album out. I just knew this would be a weird, unique project, and I wasn’t wrong.

The album starts off with a song called Static Vision, which has a really wonky instrumental.

It kinda sounds like something MF DOOM might include as like a transitional portion of one of his songs in which he has audio clips from an old superhero cartoon playing. It’s one of those beats that I… How should I say this? I’ll put it like this; my enjoyment of this instrumental definitely depends on which MC uses it, and I think it fits Fatboi Sharif perfectly honestly. Not only is Sharif’s beat selection super off-kilter, but his approach to writing is really different as well. He is able to say shit that is really intriguing and vivid, but in a really cryptic way. I’d be lying if I said I felt like I understood exactly what the lyrics are meant to convey, but I still get enjoyment out of them just because they’re really gripping at face value alone.

Hangman self-loathing scroll tomb
Window cracked, cornered old room, soul confused

I really love the “I ain’t scared no more” refrain on this track. I think that’s really cool. Both of the verses are pretty interesting, and same goes for the production. I actually don’t know whose performance on this track is more riveting between Sharif and noface. They both created some really weird, creative shit here. The song’s really dope, and it transitions really smoothly into the following track, The Hybrid. I like the beat on this track even more than that of the preceding song. It sounds really suspenseful, kinda like something I could hear in a movie. As far as song structure goes, this is a pretty straightforward track. However, as far as the lyrical content goes, “straightforward” is the last word I would use. Just like with the preceding track, I have a lot of difficulty deciphering what the lyrics actually mean, but I enjoy them despite being confused.

Grenades surround ledge
PTSD particles
Cite God and his cosmics
Light veil, sparkling honest
The 8 year old with a pipe bomb by his privates

I think I probably misquoted some of those lines, but I did my best to transcribe them accurately. If I realize they’re wrong in the future I’ll come back and edit this review to correct them. Anyway, I like this song even more than the opening track. I think it’s really dope. It’s followed by the shortest song on the album, Sunday School Explosives. Once again, I like this song even more than the preceding material. The production here is just really fucking cool. I love the fast-paced percussion. It’s a really chaotic instrumental, but it’s not super loud and bombastic. It’s like organized chaos. I love it. The song is just 54 seconds long, so there’s only time for one verse. Once again, it’s weird as hell. I love it. This is definitely one of my favorite tracks on the album despite its brevity. I actually think the short length works to its benefit. I mean, the overwhelming majority of the tracks on this project are already under two minutes anyway. This song in particular kinda feels like an interlude. I really fuck with it though. I think it’s dope as hell. The following track is called John Hinckley, and it features Lungs a.k.a. LoneSword, who produced the aforementioned Cyber City Society project.

Lungs is an artist I’ve been super interested in checking out ever since I heard Cyber City Society. A couple months ago this video of him rapping went semi-viral on underground Hip Hop Twitter, and it was really intriguing.

I think the way he raps is awesome, and his feature on this track did not disappoint at all. The way this dude flows is really crazy. I can’t think of any other MCs that sound like this. I mean, the closest comparison I can think of right now is CRIMEAPPLE, but they’re not really the same. Anyway, the opening verse on this track from him is absolutely stellar. I really gotta check out a solo project from him. The production from noface here is really fucking cool too. Again, it’s one of those instrumentals that would only work for a very specific type of MC. Lungs & Sharif fit over it perfectly though. The second verse from Sharif is really dope.

John Hinckley popped that president
Bastard steps
Gunfire sun visor
Spittin' Budweiser breath
Cold stone hypnotic
Seventh seal
Fog of chronic

I think I may have misquoted some of those lines because it can be difficult for me to register exactly what Sharif is saying a lot of the times. It’s even harder to decipher what they actually mean. I guess if you’re one of those people who isn’t into more abstract lyricism then you probably won’t be too into his style. I personally love when artists are actually doing something different. Fatboi Sharif is anything but generic. This song in particular is definitely one of my favorite tracks on the album. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that this is one of my favorite songs that Fatboi Sharif has ever made. I think it’s dope af. It’s followed by 1999 Hacker Worldwide, which is even better from a production standpoint in my opinion. This track has one of my favorite instrumentals on the album. I love how kind of minimalistic it is. Fatboi Sharif’s slow-paced flow fits over it beautifully too. As far as song structure goes, this track is very straightforward. It’s just one verse from Sharif over a super lowkey, yet tense instrumental. There’s nothing not weird about this song. Everything from Sharif’s flow, to his lyricism, even down to his vocal delivery is very unorthodox. Of course the beat is really off-kilter too. I think this song is really fucking dope. The following track is called Parasite. I think it’s pretty good, although it’s not one of my favorites from the album. It just doesn’t stand out as much as some of the others to me. There’s really nothing about it that I dislike though. It’s definitely an enjoyable track. Once again, the production is really weird. It kinda reminds me of Sharif’s appearance on Aethiopes. His vocal delivery is similar to that of his appearance on Haarlem. The song itself is really short; it’s just under 70 seconds long. I think the brevity is probably part of why the song doesn’t stand out as much to me. It just feels a little scant. The beat is really weird, and the rapping is good, but as a song it doesn’t feel that fleshed out. It’s not really a track that I would listen to outside of the context of the full album, but I guess that could be said about most of the tracks here. I still fuck with this song though. It’s good. Same goes for the following track, Paging Dr. noface. This is an instrumental interlude that I feel pretty much the same way about. It’s an enjoyable track for me, but it’s far from a highlight on this album. I actually think this is probably the most accessible track on the album. It’s the most traditional sounding beat here in my opinion. I mean, it’s still pretty weird, but compared to the other tracks it feels tame. If this was just released as a loose single I probably wouldn’t listen to it more than once. It’s definitely enjoyable to an extent though. I fuck with it. Track 8 is a major highlight called Sugarcane Plantation. This beat is fucking amazing. It’s weird as hell, but I fucking love it. These are my favorite types of instrumentals for Sharif. I just think he sounds awesome over these kind of glitchy, minimalistic, non-melodic beats. I guess this song follows the same structure as most of the preceding material—it’s just one verse from Sharif over a bizarre instrumental—but something about this track just makes it stand out more for whatever reason. I think it might be the beat. The production here is just really fucking cool to me. There aren’t really many rappers that I can imagine sounding comfortable over a beat like this. As always, the lyricism is really dope.

Channel anger through the speaker
Surround smoke travel coast of Costa Rica
Light creepin'
The preacher asked, "could you keep a secret?"
On news at 12, crucify white Jesus

This is another one of my favorite tracks on the album honestly. I absolutely love the production, and Sharif sounds awesome over it. I think it’s dope af. It’s followed by another highlight called Smells Like Autopsy. The previous track transitions into this one really smoothly. Once again, the production is really glitchy. It seems slightly less minimalistic. It feels way more chaotic. It’s even more melodic as well. Nobody raps on this song at all. I like this track way more than the first instrumental interlude. In fact, this is actually one of my favorite songs on the album. I think it’s amazing. I love it. The next song is called Nazi Needle Marks. It’s the second-longest song on the album, but it doesn’t feel like it overstays its welcome at all. This song is weird as hell honestly. I mean, every song on this album is weird as hell, but this one is weird in a different way. It’s actually pretty different from most of the other tracks in my opinion. The beat is somewhat melodic, and actually kinda jazzy. Sharif’s delivery is more melodic too—particularly towards the end of the song. I feel like Sharif’s flow is a bit more fast-paced than it was on most of the preceding material as well. Speaking of Sharif, I actually think this track probably has his best rapping on the whole album.

We left the block party
Describe fools who knew better
We traded honor for that thin slice of cheddar

I’m not as crazy about the second half of this song in which Sharif’s delivery gets more melodic, but overall the song is really dope to me. The penultimate track is called 5G Celsius Cell Tower. This is another highlight for me. Of course the weird production is a big part of why I like this song so much, but it’s also because of Fatboi Sharif’s vocal delivery. He sounds slightly different from how he usually sounds here. His voice sounds a bit more… Hmmm… I don’t know exactly how to describe it. I guess he sounds more angry here? I mean, it’s not like he’s yelling or anything. His voice just sounds sharper during some lines, especially at the beginning of his verse. The second verse is performed by an artist named Phiik, whose name I’ve seen floating around Twitter for the past year. Upon further research, I discovered that he’s done a lot of work with Lungs, which makes sense because they pretty much have the same flow. They thankfully have two very different voices though, so they don’t sound identical. Phiik sounds a lot more energetic than Lungs vocally. His performance is relatively short, but the verse itself is fire. I love how chaotic the percussion on this track is. This is another one of the better songs on the album in my opinion. I think it’s dope as hell. The closing track is called Fentanyl Fire Squad. The production is far less cluttered-sounding on this track. It’s nowhere near as chaotic as that of the preceding track. It’s kind of melodic too. This is the longest track on the album, but it miraculously doesn’t even feel that much longer than the other tracks. I think it’s mainly because Fatboi Sharif’s rapping just had me hooked the entire time. I never really got tired of the song because I was always eager to hear what he was gonna say next, even if I have no idea what most of it means. It’s just fun to listen to. The production kinda sounds like something I’d hear in a suspenseful horror film. I’m actually glad that the longest track here is the outro. I think it works pretty well as a finale. The song is dope.

This album is great. I thought GLC was a really weird album when I first heard it, but this project here is on a whole other level of weirdness. The production is far more unorthodox, and I feel like Sharif’s rapping has gotten weirder too. Cyber City Society was just as weird as this project, but I feel like Preaching in Havana is less abrasive. I promise you that you will not hear any other album that sounds like this. Maybe you might find an album with similar production, but there’s no way the rapping matches that of Fatboi Sharif. Nobody sounds like this dude. I think I said this earlier, but if you’re into abstract, experimental Hip Hop, Fatboi Sharif is an artist that you need to be aware of. Shoutout to noface too. I think this was my first time actually hearing any of noface’s production, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. Every single beat here is weird as hell, but the production is varied enough to keep things from getting stale. I also think the brief song lengths have a lot to do with why this album is so easy to listen to. The entire thing is just over 20 minutes, so it’s easy to give this thing a spin even if you don’t really like it that much. Perhaps the coolest aspect of this album is the fact that it sounds nothing like Sharif’s last album. That’s what has me excited to hear what he does next because I can tell he’s one of those artists who strives to keep challenging himself and listeners. The features on this album are really good too. I really don’t have any consistent gripes with this project. I think it’s really goddamn dope, and one of the better albums I’ve heard in 2022. Don’t sleep on it.

Favorite Song: John Hinckley
Least Favorite Song: Parasite


Grade: B+

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