With the broad range of sounds that exist in hip hop today, its easy to get lost in the various rabbit holes of subgenres. Most become masters in their lane, rather than mastering them all. Ben Reilly however, seems to be on track to becoming the connective tissue to all of it. On his newest release, Freelance: Charlie feels like a love letter to the genre, while simultaneously telling his own story.
On first glance, it comes across as if he’s the missing link between familial cohorts Kendrick Lamar & Baby Keem. Kendrick’s lyrics are packed with immense skill in writing, meanwhile Keem’s are a lot looser. Where Keem lacks though is made up for energy, creating endless playlist music. Jumping from one artist to the other though feels jarring, as they make music on two opposite ends of the spectrum of the genre.
Ben Reilly – Maytag (Tax Free)
Ben Reilly however manages to blend both of their styles together into something that feels reminiscent, but not derivative. This is because on deeper look he blends so much more together. The overall sound brought on Freelance: Charlie feels like something that wouldn’t have come together without The Love Below by Outkast preceding it. All the songs subtly flow into each other to create this world of its own, feeling incredibly layered in its mixing choices.
As clear as the older musical influences are, there are plenty of new school influences to be found throughout the experience. While there’s these short stints of aggressive distortion techniques to be found throughout, the most obvious moment is on the second half “Agenda.” This half feels like what can be heard from Rage artists like Yeat, providing one of the most satisfying beat switches in quite awhile.
All these influences aren’t to take away from his lyrical ability, which is fully on display throughout the project. Easily one of the most notable standouts is “Charlie Charlie,” where the beautiful soul sample rings through & he raps his heart out. With an insanely multisyllabic rhyme scheme, he prepares for the top of the rap game.
Ben Reilly – Charlie Charlie
Being that this project is only B-sides from the previous album, simply called Freelance, it manages to be impressively complete. With the exception of weaker tracks like “Brand New Free,” the album flows together beautiful. Its almost as if this looser makes for more exciting moments, like how the beautiful soul beat of “Charlie Charlie” blends into the more electronic focused production of “Free.99”.
The themes of love lose & gain are strong throughout the project. “No Strings: Felt The Rush” takes to a simpler moment of love first found, as the beginnings of a crush are universal & can happen at any age as long as their strong enough. Meanwhile “Clipped” highlights the lose of a relationship & the yearning of wanting to talk again, despite what the outcome of the conversation might be.
There’s plenty to unpack in its short twenty-seven minute runtime, and in the wrong hands it could easily fall apart. Yet with Ben Reilly at the helm, it all comes together. Being such an ambitious album so early in his career is no small feat, and can only plant the seeds of what’s to come. From what’s presented here, he could go anywhere. Yet, wherever that maybe, we are here for the ride.