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Rickie Jacobs -- 'Virgo Season EP' (Self-released)( Handout / October 1, 2012 )
DOWNLOAD: Rickie Jacobs, 'Virgo Season EP'
Rating: *1/2 (out of 4 stars)
Hip-hop's current climate -- where rhyming style, image and transparent emotions matter more than technical skill -- seems well-suited for Rickie Jacobs, the 26-year-old Baltimore-bred MC who garnered national attention online for his "Live Epic" mixtape in May. He's Web-savvy, using Twitter to tantalize ("I'm only performing Virgo Season records at orgies") and Instagram to show off fresh sneakers. He also knows the importance of presentation: Jacobs packages his releases with striking cover art, making his mixtapes feel like free albums.
"I'm the future, and people can clearly see that," he raps on "Kill Switch," the woozy opening track to his recently released "Virgo Season EP." On record and through his image, Jacobs emanates an authentic, down-to-earth personality, rarely puffing out his chest to seem more important. He's confident, even cocky, but he's also a guy in his mid-20s mostly concerned with women, vices and late nights. To the many with similar interests, he's normal.
That relatable, everyman persona is fine, but it places more pressure on the music to deliver something extraordinary. Give "Virgo Season" a cursory listen, and its slick beats and breezy flows might impress. But under any type of scrutiny, it becomes hollow, more concerned with "cool" signifiers -- sex ("20 women in my room, Hugh Hefner") and drugs ("X, weed / everything you need") -- than delivering anything worthwhile.
Most disappointing, "Virgo Season" is a regression from "Live Epic," a much more cohesive and thoughtful effort from only months ago. Jacobs has always rapped about live-for-today hedonism, but on "Drugs N Heaven" from "Live Epic," he also acknowledged the repercussions of hard living. On "Virgo Season's" "The Best Orgy," Jacobs ignores tomorrow's hangover, instead stating matter-of-fact lines about sharing women with friends with dead-eyed seriousness. It's an ugly but popular sentiment in rap right now, and Jacobs happily goes along with the status quo. But he forgot an important hip-hop rule: If you're going to rap about cliches, you better deliver them in new, interesting ways.
This is not to say that Jacobs lacks talent. His thin voice isn't memorable, but he possesses a gift for melody, delivering smooth verses and hooks with ease. "God is Good" is Jacobs' refreshingly introspective moment ("I lost my mother to cancer / this my dedication"), but it sounds out of place following a raunchy song called "Gotta Be the Ass." Being 26 is complicated -- many of us feel torn by the need to mature and the desire to remain carefree -- and Jacobs is no exception. His music should better reflect that. -- Wesley Case