05 Aug Review – Barely Big Enough by BarelyAnyHook
At this point in time, I don’t even think I really need to introduce BarelyAnyHook to the people anymore. We all know how I feel about him, and those that don’t will find out by the end of this piece. What we have here is a collaborative 4-track EP from him and producer Bigfootinyourface (which, for the record, is such a confrontational name haha. Like, I’m ready to fight and defend myself). Barely Big Enough (are we talking about the foot here or…?) is probably one of the most eclectic musical offerings I’ve heard out of Nigeria in a while and it’s really hard to talk about. So regardless of what I say in this review, I think everyone should at least experience the weirdness these two have put together.
See My Hand is an interesting start with its a very hard cold open; stabbing horns, bouncy drums, and a melody reminiscent of primary school songs. Barely jumps in atop the cacophony, riding the pocket in the beat with his signature soulful bouncy delivery. There’s a deceptive ease to the flow, especially when the pianos came in and switch the song up a bit. If this is your first taste of BarelyAnyHook, you probably realize why that’s his name. The song evolves through its runtime with no central hook to rally around but this free structure allows him to play with what’s happening sonically. Sadly, at some parts, I found myself wishing the mix was a bit cleaner as it’s easy to lose the rap in the group singing.
My first thought about Viene El Invierno (or Winter Is Coming for those of us who can use Google Translate) was “Bigfoot! What is this beat?” (something BAH himself acknowledges). It sounds so odd but I love the melody and the 808s drive it home. And then Barely melts in some Spanish. The Spanish! Jeez. The blend is beautiful. I don’t even need to understand it but I don’t think I need to in order to appreciate the dexterity on display (just like he says by himself). Also, nobody writes like this guy; making meta comments about the song in the song. It kinda blows my mind. And there’s no hook on this song either. Barely any hook on the project as a whole, yeah, you understand by now haha. The outro is this glorious flamenco-esque breakdown complete with congas and hollering. Wow. Bigfoot you beast.
Recognize (Look At You) begins with these effect-heavy vocals that form the chord progression basically. And then when the beat drops whooooo. The energy. And you’d think that’s what would go into verse but they slow it down and force you to listen to the words (which I implore you too because the boy is a wordsmith). His flow almost has a call and response vibe to it and molds itself around the beat like an adder marrying itself to a tree limb. There’s this roughness to the singing on the bridge that I think works better for the song than pristinely delivered vocals ever could. There’s also a lot of background chatter and additional vocals going on in many songs that give them this hearty rap lounge feel, almost like you’re listening to a stage performance with other people chiming in and background commentary from other listeners. It really fills out the sonic space the listener imagines.
Till Evening closes out the project with another horn-filled jazz-club beat. Even the singing gives me that almost RnB, suit and hat, Ne-Yo on stage vibe. I must admit that the “You’re my girl” refrain goes on a bit too long for me and almost starts to grate. Yes, the beat continues evolving and that is welcome for auditory interest, but at a point I almost turned a way.
TL;DR: Like I said already, this is a really difficult project to talk about. On one hand, I’m a big believer in pushing the envelope, branching out, changing and challenging expectations. Bigfootinyourface hits us with some of the most left-field, delightfully puzzling, sonically playful rap beats I’ve heard in a minute. Beats you’d think would be difficult to hop on but BarelyAnyHook makes it sound sooo easy. He keeps pace with every instrumental; matching the energy with his flow, the switches, the singing. He plays with your attention; widening your scope with the ad-libs and all the stuff happening in the background inviting the listener to listen more broadly. Some things you don’t even exactly hear but you sort of feel the change. And then he pulls you back inside with lyrics that you need to pay attention to, masterful wordplay, quips and puns, meta commentary and the language shifts! I will tell anyone who cares to listen that I still believe BAH is the best storytelling rapper we have right now and he has one of the best pens in the scene, period. The project is experimental, it’s funky, soulful, fun, different. I will also say its not the most accessible. One has to be ready to experience this project and not just listen. It might also not be the most replayable. The downside to not having hooks is that there’s no easy quick quotable that people can latch on to. I’d pay good money to find someone who can go word for word on Track 2 after a handful of listens. But that’s the thing, not all music is to be experienced the same way. I don’t know if I could play this at the function or when I get passed the aux, but on a commute with headphones in and time to kill, who doesn’t wanna spice up that time with a short experience. Check it out on your streaming platforms of choice.
PS. Try it on shuffle.
Favorite Tracks: Viene El Invierno & Recognize (Look At You)
Least Favorite Track: Till Evening