|Album Review: Free Nationals - Free Nationals|
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Silk threads and gold ropes. That’s the vibe on the Free Nationals’ highly-anticipated debut album. The self-titled project was released on December 13, 2019, after last year’s hints of an album release - and it's well worth the wait.
The group is well-known for being the supporting band for Anderson Paak. Stepping into the light, the foursome has laid down 13 groove-riddled tracks that feel like summertime in L.A. Enlisting features from the late Mac Miller, Kali Uchis, Chronnix, J.I.D, Syd, T.I, and many more, the feature-heavy composition puts the group’s undeniable musicianship on display.
The album is nostalgic, reviving sounds reminiscent of 70’s soul like Bootsy Collins, Al Green & Stevie Wonder. Guitarist, Jose Rios is a standout on the album, laying down soulful guitar riffs on each track. Velvet chord progressions melt into Daniel Caesar’s seductive voice on “Beauty & Essex”, a song dedicated to baby-making. The “Apartments” instrumental follows suit, complimenting Benny Sing’s timeless voice. Benny sounds like he just came out of a 70’s time machine. Summertime in LA wouldn’t be right without sticky weed and bass. “On Sight” is a hazy and hypnotizing cut with a verse from Atlanta-native, J.I.D and a smooth hook from Kadhja Bonet. The cocaine-laced “The Rivington”, is West Coast street rap draped over neo-soul production. Free Nationals feels and sounds like the foundation of an early Anderson Paak cut and what would it be without a feature from the man himself. Paak’s raspy voice sounds like satin on “Gidget”, a song committed to getting your boo back. The production on the album is quite amazing, to say the least, but the group’s ability to perfectly pair features shouldn’t go unnoticed. Rap veteran, T.I, is in his bag on the rock-influenced “Cut Me a Break”. The high energy song is experimentation at its finest, allowing T.I’s versatility to shine through. “Time” brings together Mac Miller and Kali Uchis to bare their souls over heartbreak. It’s not often that a feature-heavy project does such a damn good job at bringing a diverse group of artists together and pulling it off.
For a first album, one thing is certain, the group’s skill is unmatched. Staying true to the original sounds of funk and soul, the Free Nationals have composed a debut album that perfectly pays homage to some of our great musical pioneers. Job well done.