South Miami is currently a breeding ground for prominent rappers where artists like Rick Ross, FloRida, and DJ Khaled run the game. Some would argue the genre is as popular as ever, crossing into the mainstream and enjoying success on the charts as well as nonstop radio play. But has hip-hop as an art form lost the grit and raw personality that gave it notoriety to begin with?
Enter rapper/singer/songwriter Warlok, whose lyrics represent a throwback to street life and earlier times when artists like Notorious B.I.G., Wu-tang Clan, and 3-6 Mafia ruled the roost. Not shy to sampling the drums, bass, and electronica that have made mainstream rap increasingly popular; Warlok boldly touts modern beats while scrapping bubble-gum pop lyrics in favor of an edgier early-90s gangster persona. His new EP, After the Deadline, was released last week and is available for streaming now.
The first track/intro of this Miami rapper’s new EP begins with the sound of wind chimes, ushering Warlok’s mantra “this is the deadline” over scuttling synths and the clangs of hammers on steel, reminiscent of an '80s-infused Phil Collins ballad. It employs a sense of urgency as the music continues to get louder, finding the artist frustrated with the perils of living as a young man in today's society. It prompts familiar grievances shared throughout history, such as being recruited by one's government to fight in wars an individual may not agree with, as well as frustration with the lack of social justice and solutions to poverty. The artist claims, “I’m running out of time and I’m losing my mind,” driving the point home that something in his world needs to change.
The second track (“I Just Can’t Wait” ft. Hitman) shifts gears, however, finding Warlok’s persona in a club asking a waitress for a round of drinks. It begins with smooth R&B vocals crooning out the request but quickly turns into a sex anthem about picking up women. This one feels very similar to a Pitbull song, detailing parties and graphic sexcapades in and out of the club and the artist’s bedroom. The track seems out of place with the congruency and flow of the rest of the album, but does have a catchy hook throughout that keeps the party going.
“Down South” (ft. Homey G) is the third song and an ode to Miami street life. Warlok boasts that he’s a thug killer, and mentions driving in his truck with the intent to find his adversaries, bust their skulls open and cut their heads off with a saw. This is where the gangster identity comes in full swing, and we get a taste of what life might be like for a down south gangbanger. Lyrically it has all the makings of a Cypress Hill anthem and stylistically reminds us of Tech N9ne infused with Twista.
The fourth and final track is called “Phantom of the Dark” (w/ A.G. Lyonz) and features a classic mid- 90’s bass-rattling beat with reggae overtones. In this brief, somewhat eerie piece, the rapper fears his dark side may overcome him. Street life, legal battles and internal demons he cannot escape become the focus of this daytime nightmare.
Overall the EP doesn't embark into any new territory but stylistically changes pace enough to keep listeners interested. After the Deadline is hard to categorize as a whole, but perhaps this is the strength of Warlok's music; it offers a nice variety and sampling of sounds, while taking us back to a time when hip-hop was more about street life and less about money and branding.