RJ Payne has been honing his craft for longer than you might realize, and its time for you to give him his flowers. Philly born but repping New York, the battle rapper formerly known as Reign Man has more recently settled into the gritty East Coast revival scene; Where its all about dark beats and mean coke bars, RJ is the perfect fit. On the Leatherface and If Cocaine Could Talk series’, he shows off phenomenal wordplay and simply menacing bars over grimy, Alchemist/Daringer/Muggs etc style production. On the Beautiful Payne series, however, RJ gives us a peek into his heart – no matter how troubled and broken it may be. Beautiful Payne 4 is among his best work and the perfect contrast to last year’s phenomenal Leatherface 3: Let There Be Blood.
So many kids got in the drama nowadays cause there’s too many daddies, not enough fathers…
I bring awareness to put a stop to the problems
Only things I worry bout – Getting shot or popping the condom
The first thing to note about Beautiful Payne 4 is the production. Fully handled by RJ’s partner PA Dre, it is notably softer than a lot of their other stuff. Full of lush soul samples, organs, and epic orchestral cuts, the production fits perfectly because it just sounds like something to pour your heart out too. This is obviously a departure from what you often associate RJ with – Evil, gritty boombap and horror themes a la his feature on Benny’s “The Plugs I Met” or Leatherface 3. Rather, this is all very warm and reminiscent of a therapy session. The intro skit sets the scene as RJ speaks to a therapist, apologizing for previous outbursts (symbolizing some of his tougher work) and ready to talk it out.
“Momma I Made It” is a beautiful song to kick it all off. While the concept isn’t exactly unique, there’s a reason for that. Everyone owes something to their mothers and this acknowledgement is a great tribute. With her passing, RJ makes sure to flex how he’s doing now and praying that she can see it and is proud of him. From there, a lot of this album speaks on struggles in the community and the industry. One such example is “Tough Love”, where RJ addresses his troubled nephew. Succumbing to the streets and giving his mother grief, RJ expresses a big internal conflict. On one hand, this is his blood and he’s fallen victim to the tough lifestyle that many others are forced into; But on the other, RJ still has to look out for his own sister and set him straight.
They say you can blow with persistence
But my success is everything that I spoke in existence
I mean Tesla made a self driving car but understand it was the vision that drove em the distance
While RJ’s rapping is usually very punchline focused and the battle style shines through clearly, he takes that flow on Beautiful Payne 4 and uses it to communicate something totally different. The signature flow is still there, but the bars are no longer the focus; Rather, he is speaking in confessional and wise terms. A lot of these bars read less like raps and more like he’s just talking to us, making it feel so personal. Other standout tracks include “The Curse” and “What Comes With It”, where RJ speaks on qualms with the industry and its exploitative nature. He claims being a rapper is the world’s most dangerous profession, the personal sacrifices he has made to get this far, and uses Young Dolph as an example of how the streets love nobody. Even though RJ might not be the most famous, you can tell he’s a student of the game and is really seasoned through it all.
Overall, Beautiful Payne 4 is easily one of RJ Payne’s best projects yet. He has really improved as an artist over the years, honing his raw lyricism into projects which are fleshed out and emotive. It is a wise choice to split up these emotional cuts from other series’ which are darker. Between this and Leatherface 3, RJ is officially one of the absolute best MC’s in the scene and any future albums are a mandatory listen.