Don’t miss Trey Mancini and Joey Rickard guest bartend at the first Brews & O’s event June 10th. Get your tickets today!

Al Rogers -- 'Almost' (Self-released)

DOWNLOAD: Al Rogers, 'Almost' RATING: *** 1/2 out of 4 Seemingly out of nowhere, 23-year-old rapper Al Rogers has released the strongest album from a Baltimore artist this year. "Almost," in the making for the past 2 1/2 years, is also Rogers' first project ever, which makes the accomplishment even more impressive. Similar to ASAP Rocky's self-released mixtape, "Live. Love. ASAP," "Almost" succeeds as an introduction to a new voice because of its cohesiveness. Rogers doesn't rap like Rocky, but both MCs know the importance of a signature sound. The beats on "Almost" vary enough to keep things interesting, but overall, the woozy production -- mostly handled by local producers 713 and Millz Douglas -- sounds interconnected through warm tones, sustained synthesizers and a sense of melancholy underneath the surface. Rogers does right by the beats. With an unhinged, enthralling delivery, he could remind listeners of Kendrick Lamar, the virtuoso Compton, Calif., rapper. Rogers doesn't possess the same jaw-dropping ability as Lamar, but both rappers use their voices as expressive instruments that can sound frighteningly forceful one moment and high-pitched like a child the next. Rogers' voice alone could carry a song, although it never has to here. Rogers uses "Almost" as a disarmingly honest, 47-minute venting session. On "Inside (to Pops)," the emotions surrounding his absent father ("maybe busy pill-poppin'") drain Rogers down to a whisper. On "Baltiwar," which appropriately samples a Tupac Shakur interview, Rogers depicts his city bleakly: "We mastered the art of war / Sun Tzu coulda come through without a gun or two / or him, too, would end up dead." The best song on "Almost" is the soulful but knocking "U Must Luv Me." After mourning the loss of his cousin and lamenting the fact that his uncle is doing life in prison, Rogers snaps his purpose as an artist into focus. Tellingly, he name-drops Lamar in the process: "And Kendrick just might be the best / At 22 [his age when Rogers recorded the song], I'm second to stepping on his neck." Rogers has a long journey ahead of him before coming close to rap's heights like Lamar. But "Almost" shows we should hear him try. -- Wesley Case
Picasa / Handout
Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad