Words by Landon A.
Music began as a vehicle for voicing your struggle. From the blues and beyond, artists have creatively released their pain via your speakers. Hip-Hop has been especially good at this, speaking to the generation directly about social problems, race relations, etc. But that was back in the day. Now the formula to a “conscious Hip-Hop” album is a lot of political commentary, a few shots at O’Reilly, a pinch of self admitted over indulgence, sprinkle a club banger or two over it, heat to industry standards and serve in visually unpleasing packaging.
Take Donny Goines for example. Goines is a native New Yorker with plenty on his mind using Hip-Hop as his means of expressing it. Minute After Midnight puts the spotlight on Goines alone, boasting very few cameo’s leaving just you and the man of the hour.
Donny comes in hard the Minute… play is pressed, seemingly laying out the groundwork for the rest of the record; an album that plays out like a graphic book on tape set to thumping beats from a fresh face. “The Triumph” has Goines spitting razor blades on that “I’m more than the average MC” tip while still holding onto the momentum set by the album’s intro. M-Phazes lays the track while Goines attacks like one of Michael Vick’s pits. “Ghetto U.S.A.” has Don speaking on exactly that — ghetto’s in the U.S.A., adding his tales of growing up hood to stories shared by everyone engulfed in the struggle. The eerie backdrop compliments Donny’s truthful and troubling vocals while newcomer Tess adds the requisite female voice to complete the tale.
However, subsequent entries such as “What I Am” mark faltering points in …Midnight’s infrastructure. The overly simplistic beat accompanied by the lacking lyrical content begin to drag the album into the ditch of clichés so many rappers fall into. The same goes for “What Happened,” which ultimately is a call to a return of the golden era. Have you heard this before? Yes. “No one has the passion of Kane…blah blah…what happened to the culture blah blah.” Too often today, talented artists go this route and fall prey to highly predictable albums, reusing the same formula you heard on Joe Blow’s last LP.
Fortunately, D. Goines catches a second wind for the latter half of the record. Dame Grease’s “I Am Moving” penetrates the psyche, unraveling some well needed intricacy. Bass heavy drums complimented by a distorted keyboard help lift the album from its first half slump. “Ricky’s Story” is another fresh reminder that the best way to win listeners over is by placing a face not your own into a story, treating us to something similar to a film. Because let’s face it: Donny, at this point we know your story pretty well. Statik Selektah hits the boards and laces the joint up nice and soulful-like, adding to the cinematic tone of the lyrics. Wrapping up the 12:01 is “Heaven Is With You,” an uplifting joint that plays out a lot like Mr. Lif’s ode to his unborn child, “For You.” This track’s contagious bounce and lighthearted lyrics soften the mournful subject matter to make for a fitting tribute.
Minute After Midnight is definitely a solid release from an obviously talented newcomer. What it lacks is that artistic spark that would set it apart from the floods of albums and mixtapes being released by the Joes of this industry. Don’t sleep on Donny Goines, though. He’s still got a head start on most fools coming out in ’09 with heightened expectations for his next sixty seconds.
Minute After Midnight is available for purchase via Amalgam Digital.