Rexx Life Raj is Refined Musically & Emotionally | Father Figure 3
Evan Dale // Nov 7, 2019
Prolific is the word when it comes to Hip-Hop / R&B transcendentalist, Rexx Life Raj. His range is the reason for that. Musically, the Berkeley, California modernist is an unpredictable force floating effortlessly here with vocals and there with raps, but always experimentally a new version of himself. Emotionally, his music is in touch with his sensitivities and finds a relatable root regardless of thematic direction. And in project form, Rexx Life Raj is an in-depth mirror towards himself while simultaneously a projection of Hip-Hop and R&B’s grey area heading direction.
His newest album is Father Figure 3: Somewhere Out There.
The third installment of a Father Figure album series interlaced with a trio other EP’s and LP’s over the past half-decade, Father Figure 3 is as all of his projects have been: an evolution of himself musically through his honest life experiences since the last. Where last year, he went off menu, dropping an homage to the West Coast old school with California Poppy, brimming with Dre-reminiscent synths and an unforgettable verse on Sprinkle Me from fellow Central Coast figure, E-40, FF3 as a whole feels much more tied to the direction of its leading singles – soul-heavy and understated.
But by no means is it short on hip-hop influence and the thought-out poeticism the world has grown to expect from Raj. Verse after verse remind just how underrated he is as a lyricist. After all, few if any current figments of the hip-hop spectrum are more comfortable with and open in discussing life than he is. Never Change – his first single in the wake of California Poppy – though not included in the FF3 playbill – is definitely the guiding direction for the project at large. Like a screenplay divulging his experiences traveling the world with his crew, Raj’s verses delineate what he’s done and who that’s made him in 2019. Tracks from FF3 like Somewhere in Paris explore the same thematic direction, fit with humble braggadocio on the hook that still invites a more mainstream, less provocative ear to even his deepest tracks.
And it also features London rapper and vocalist, Jay Prince who himself is comparable in texture and relatable lyricism to Raj and the direction of post-genre Hip-Hop / R&B transcendentalists at large. The features don’t stop there. Pseudo-acoustic, undeniably emotive production from Kenny Beats on Moonwalk makes the track one of the most unique aesthetics on the album and adds yet another credit to the producer’s absurdly stacked and wide-ranging canon. Your Way– one of Raj’s most sensitive and emotionally in-touch singles ever, is an acoustic R&B ballad turned duet with the guiding hand of Kehlani’s world-class vocalism and ties the album’s most soul-driven sensitivities at one end. A verse from Dreamville’s second-in-command, Bas, makes No Permission Needed – though still defined most by Raj’s vocally-driven raps – the most traditionally hip-hop track on the album. And polarizing, but undeniable Atlanta star, Russ makes Falling FF3’s cut likely headed fastest to the charts.
But even the features follow Raj’s overarching direction. And that direction is a modern if not futurist one delineated by a route Raj has always been on but is as comfortable with as ever. To call him a rapper would be unjust. So would calling him a singer. Instead, Rexx Life Raj is a figure of post-genre indefinability where even though he’s most often referred to as a hip-hop artist, he is truly a transcendentalist by any measure of aging genrefication. Even his most rap-heavy deliveries are sung in melody. And even his most emotionally evocative vocal bouts roll with hip-hop cadence and unexpected changes of pace.
And to discuss Father Figure 3 in any light that doesn’t respect just how important Rexx Life Raj has become to a music world in constant destruction of the boundaries of the past is simply wrong. FF3 feels like his strongest project to date. But it’s not because it’s bubbling over with some of music’s most important names, or even the fact that those names are so clearly influenced by Raj himself. It’s not the fact that Raj has become even more refined as a songwriter, a rapper, and a vocalist. Instead, it’s that the entirety of FF3 is an inward look into Raj’s self, and that any project so emotionally open need not adhere to outdated stylistic delineation.
All of music could learn something from that. And all fans of music can find something to love and relate to in Father Figure 3: Somewhere Out There.