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Album Review: Latoria “A.O.1.” EP

Latoria “A.O.1.” EP
Released: 2010
Reviewed by: DJ Gravity X
Rating: 4.55 (Out of 10)
[xrr rating=4.55/10]

It’s always strange to review an EP.  Why?  Because it’s just an EP.  It’s like an extended single or like a CD you tried to burn but got an error a third of the way through.  It’s like a that free finger food you might get in the mall’s food court that doesn’t fill you up but, if good, makes you want more; though, if bad it makes you glad you didn’t spend any money on it.  As such, I tend to not give full points to EPs out of respect for those putting out full albums for submission.   For the goal of those who run the race is to finish the race. (Watch out now, I might start preachin’ on ya! j/k)

So what does A.O.1 mean exactly?  Why thank you for asking.  Well, it stands for an Audience Of One and will be the name of the final project when it drops.  Ah, I always love metaphors.  But alas, I may just be standing alone in that.  (If I keep doing bad puns I will only have an audience of one, gees.)

My first impression when looking at the cover art of Latoria’s A.O.1 (EP) left me kinda of excited.  I thought, “I love this artwork, must be a dope neo-soul/R&P album!  Yea, I gotta get into this!”  But I was abruptly disrupted when reading the bio and finding out that Latoria is a female emcee – a femcee as she put it.  And she’s not alone as she is part of a larger organization of femcees called CFRN (the Christian Female Rap Network) headed by Octavia Harris.  That’s actually really cool I think.  And with generally a minute number of female emcees, in comparison to male emcees, I think such an organization is rather wise too.  But needless to say, the cover art does in no way reflect what you will find once that cd starts running.

Generally, I was very apathetic.  Nothing really jumped out at me and impressed me or made me want to listen and replay over and over again.  It was all kinda, blah.  Look, Latoria is saying real stuff.  It’s just kinda, well, basic; at least in the way it is presented.  The rhymes are all really simple, like almost old-school simple.  The content is God fearing, but, again, very basic.  And the beats are just, well, okay.  Latoria’s overall sound is unimpressive and aren’t accentuated by or accentuating the beats.  And some of the vocal effects are just flat out at a poor standard.

Let’s get this straight right now; when I get an EP I should be getting a glimpse at the best of what’s to be on the album as well as a look into the theme/concept of the whole album.  And while the theme was being molded well and showed a balanced album with a range of sounds and a high focus on Christ, over coming adversity and testimonies (as well as some fun tracks), getting the best of an album in this EP is kind of like your getting your favorite veggies…but canned – it’s just not the same thing as ‘fresh.’

One of the toughest things I believe faces “femcees” is having a unique and yet interesting style and sound.  So many sound the same and so many do not impress.  For me, some of the key aspects are: the artist’s sound (voice) when rapping; style (punch line rapper, lyricist, poppy, versatile, etc.) and its quality; the type of delivery (aggressive, singing/melodic, monotone, chill/relaxed, etc.); and general swag.  The secular industry has recently seen a couple femcees that defy the standard the same way Queen Latifa, MC Lyte and Salt & Pepper did in their day and have set a new bench mark.  But, for me, Latoria sounds just like every other femcee that has some talent but just doesn’t have the chops to put out something unique and/or amazing.  And maybe the stacks are against the femcee from the jump and favor the male?  Maybe that is true.  But if it is, then it’s far more important to be able to do every little thing to smash that stack to bits.  Instead, Latoria just got tripped up and stuck in with the rest of the pack in the stack.

Maybe it’s not all Latoria’s fault.  In the mini-clip of “Achtung” Latoria sounded decent but the beat was horrible – and by that I mean atrocious – and extremely distracting.  When it comes down to it, the production is way behind and it pulls back the artist in the process.  Even the mix and master just didn’t make the tracks on the album pop and, apart from “Then Say So,” just weren’t well mixed and mastered.  So, maybe Latoria is better than this.  I really hope so, but you won’t know listening to the EP.

On a positive note, “Then Say So!” had some real promise even though it’s kind of a cookie-cutter beat.  But at least everything (vocals and beat) seemed to be working in unison most the time and Latoria actually sounded good on it.  Definitely something to put on the final project and I’m assuming was intended to be the single.  Also, I did like the beat on “What is the Reason,” when it finally came in (especially love the bass guitar).  But as I said before, something’s always off and in this case it was the vocal effects that ruined it for me.  I do appreciate the open testimonial at the top of the track though, and I think it was well done.  But I would make it an interlude on the final project and then make the transition to the song seamless.  Also, have those vocal effects in the verses corrected, please.

“Keep On” in the hook was decent too, but, like with most the tracks, it just keeps feeling like Latoria was holding back.  Like she’s trying to soften herself or be airy instead of just going for it and really feeling the songs and/or just swagin’ it out.  And in “Keep On” there are moments where she does just release and there’s definitely something there and exciting, and then it goes away moments later.

The bar is raised folks!  Step up and/or start putting in much more work to get over that bar.  Just because it’s Godly in content doesn’t mean it’s great musically.  With high hopes from a quality cover and a detailed bio I had higher expectations for something good.  I was sadly left disappointed, like when I bought my first CD player but it didn’t have vibration control and kept jumping all over the place.

My recommendation?  Next time you see the name “Latoria,” skip it or take advantage of listening to the track ahead of time to know whether it’s worth spending your hard earned money on.

Hope you really put in some serious work for your full project, Latoria.  Cause this just doesn’t cut it, especially not from these few selections.  I think you can do better and should expect better.

Comprehensive Ratings:

1. Music – 4
2. Flow/Delivery – 3
3. Lyricism – 3
4. Content – 5
5. Creativity/Originality/Relevancy – 5
6. Credibility & Confidence – 6
7.  Personality & Character – 5
8.  Presentation Quality – 9
9.  Overall Production Quality – 4
10. Potential Impact – 1.5

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