Drae Lawson – Canada FLY – Review

Drae LawsonCanada gets a bad rap. Pun intended. It never used to be the first place hip-hop fans would look for dope beats, lyrical genius or any kind of hood ready hip-hop. I mean, how can you hit your 16 switches with snow chains on your tires? Ok, enough Canada jokes. The truth is, thanks to Drake and a few others, the world is starting to look to the US neighbor to the North for some hip-hop flavor and apparently it has a lot to offer with artists like Drae Lawson.

Drae Lawson – Canada FLY

Enter Toronto’s own Drae Lawson. Cutting his teeth in the music business by singing in a cappella groups as well as in choirs, Drae had many gig opportunities locally and internationally early on. But he decided he was meant to go solo. So he began writing and producing his own music. With influences like Common, Isaac Hayes and J. Dilla, he had all the right ingredients to start creating a career in hip-hop. He just needed a name that people could remember. After some research and thought, he took his new name from Critically Acclaimed Gospel singer Andre Crouch and Samuel L. Jackson’s character from the film Menace II Society, Tat Lawson. Matter of fact, Drae cites Sam Jackson as one of his influences.

You don’t see a lot of rappers citing actors as inspiration. And even though there are no Snakes On A Plane references here, you can actually hear a little Sam Jackson in Lawson’s vocals. He delivers a style full of Pulp Fiction grit and Unbreakable passion, while also offering some very nice melodic elements reminiscent of another influence of his, Nate Dogg. You can tell that Drae has a soft place in his heart for singers. His love for Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Gerald Levert and others come through loud and clear in every hook he sings.

On March 27, 2018, Lawson released his latest EP entitled CanadaFLY. Not to be confused with Air Canada, the airline that will get you to Quebec quicker than you can say “Celine Dion,” the EP title brings some much awaited braggadocio to the north. I admire how he wears his Canadian citizenship as a badge of honor and makes me almost wish I was Canadian. The EP opens with “Car Looking Nice,” an homage to keeping your ride looking pimp before you go out cruising the scene. If you listen closely, you can hear a reference to hockey which I think every Canadian rapper is obligated to do at least once on every record!

The beat to “Car Looking Nice” is very similar to something you would hear on Dre’s Chronic 2000, another sign of Nate Dogg’s big influence on Lawson. The EP continues with bangers “Evil Shit” and “Ooohhwee.”  The beat production is solid, full of dynamic switches and beat drops. There is even a little jazz influence on “Real OG’s” where the Electric Rhodes takes the lead. Melody and harmony is ever present throughout CanadaFLY, which is a nice change of pace compared to a lot of generic Trap music out there that seems to dominate hip-hop currently.

The guest appearances on CanadaFLY are excellent and bring about some great variety, especially Bonnie Godiva’s verse on “Switch Up.”  With a flow that sounds like a mix of T.I. and Nicki Minaj, she puts the perfect exclamation point on this Canadian hip-hop journey. All in all, CanadaFLY is a solid outing for Drae Lawson. I’ll be looking forward to see where he takes it on his next release. I’d love to hear more of the melodic, jazz influenced production of “Real OG’s” with maybe some more verses from Bonnie Godiva.

Drae has a great thing going in Toronto where he also performs with the hip-hop group DCD. If he keeps his head in the game, keeps grinding, and keeps honing his sound, he’s got a chance to be another great musical export that Canada can be proud of. And although we still haven’t forgiven them for giving us Justin Bieber, maybe Drae can make us forget ‘Bieber Fever’ and deliver us into a new era where hip-hop from the icy north becomes the hottest on the planet.

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