Sampling a movie quote at the beginning of your album is a bold move. For one, you’d better hope the listeners have actually seen the film, such that they get the reference. Secondly, if it’s going to be this all-encompassing, high-minded type of quote, the record should live up to it and follow similar themes. Otherwise don’t even bother and just sample the “Funny Surfer Dude” YouTube video a la Riff Raff, instead.
That being said, GATSBY, the latest project from young New York rapper Gabriel Stark, opens with a quote from the Daniel Craig cult favorite Layer Cake. The quote is taken from the end of the film and basically exposes the stratified human experience. You know, the old “We all start from the bottom and work our way up high enough that we end up looking down on where we came from” type of spiel. Having just come off his first tour at the end of the summer, and just graduating college to pursue music full time, I guess it’s fair to say that Gabriel Stark is in between strata, and GATSBY truly epitomizes this transitional phase in his life.
The hunger is there (quite a few of the tape’s track titles are food-related, not to mention Stark’s own sweet tooth leaving lyrical dents throughout). But in the figurative sense, Stark definitely has passion, and an ear for interesting beats. “Immortal” snags a sample from The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby”, and The Chordettes’ “Lollipop” is sped up and woven through “Icing”. Both are fun and immediately recognizable samples, which is great, but sometimes letting the listener dig a bit for that super special and secret sample can be fun, too.
Lyrically, the album is incredibly ambitious. Much like a layer cake, the themes in GATSBY are incredibly stratified. From politics to girls to social issues, Stark covers them all, which, for a 22-year-old, is an amazing feat. However, there’s a stark (get it?) contrast between the maturity of GATSBY’s themes and the way Stark communicates them. While touching on some pretty dense issues, Stark’s lyrics definitely reveal his youth.
GATSBY doesn’t illustrate that Layer Cake quote so much as it just happens to represent one of those strata. Here is a young man in a transformative stage in his life. He knows what he wants, but he’s not sure how to get there. The passion and struggle are evident in Stark’s voice, but he needs to find his bearings. Though I’m sure with his drive, and taste in beats, he’ll be on top layer looking down in no time.
Grab GATSBY October 31 so you can say “I knew him when.”