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Erick the Architect’s ‘I’ve Never Been Here Before’ Retains Its Serenity Amid Distractions

This article was originally published on HipHopDX

The rapper–producer hybrid is the ultimate superpower in Hip Hop — the fidelity with which Erick The Architect has translated vision to sound as the in-house beatmaker and barman of the Flatbush Zombies over the past decade and a half is a testament to that. As the final member of the Brooklyn trio to release a solo record, however, he chose instead to take the lead on lyrical matter as the face of the operation with a team comprising James Blake, T-Minus and many other studio aficionados assisting on bringing his designs to fruition.

Released via Architect Recording Company, I’ve Never Been Here Before reveals in fullness an inward-looking side of the 35-year-old that fans have only caught glimpses of in his past work. On the other hand, the tracklist offers almost just as many cuts on the same wavelength as the material that put him and his group on the map in the first place. On paper, this contrast makes perfect sense considering the project at hand is a 16-song double album; its back-and-forth arrangement, though, is where things get a tad incoherent.

The initiative is steered by an enlightened tranquility best characterized by joints like “Instincts” and “Liberate” that show Erick submitting to then conquering themes such as love, gratitude, emotional maturity and the memories of his late mother. In maintaining that tone, the album reaches a cosmic high on “Breaking Point” as he spits: “All them salty tears, are now tears of joy” and “Used to think I hate my voice, I’m glad I spoke it” over a warm and buttery instrumental.

All in all, his songwriting excels on the introspective sections of the package, which make up a slim majority of the runtime — bars like “Assaulted my emotions, wasn’t kosher or polite” and “Pillow-talking, peace-offerings, put restrictions on my price” on “Lukemia/AM” demonstrate that with little to no doubt.

The same can’t be said for more familiar, Zombiesque tunes like “Shook Up” and “Colette,” both of which defeat the purpose of Erick flying solo. Additionally, lyrics like “Pussy too bomb she a soldier” on the pulsating “Ambrosia” and “I just wanna touch your bum, bum” from “Neue Muse” further depart from the aforementioned theme that forms the project’s core. Taking that into account, the dancehall number “Beef Patty” is arguably the most out-of-place track on the entire album because of the overtly dissimilar music it is sequenced among.

It is worth noting that the above examples aren’t shortcomings as much as they are inconsistencies in the grand scheme of things. The thoughtful and fun sides of Erick are set apart either by sounds or words, with “Mandevillain” and “Jammy Jam” accounting for rare crossovers between the two. Despite the incessant fluctuation, the music repeatedly resolves itself and at no point feels like a burden — a possible benefit of wrapping things up just a little past the 50-minute park.

With features from Joey Bada$$, George Clinton and more, I’ve Never Been Here Before is an eccentric entity in that it leaves a highly positive impression once the ensuing silence settles in, even though the presentation has some noticeable disparities. There’s a calmness and solitude to it that remains even when the pace keeps changing, the memory of which tends to linger.

RELEASE DATE: February 23, 2024

RECORD LABEL: Architect Recording Company


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