Babyface Ray has outgrown Detroit's summits and is still hungry for more with his new album, FACE. His hometown has seen a heavy rap resurgence the past two years and within this period, Ray's become a star. Since his massive street hit "Paperwork Party", the status of his career has gone from local standout to nationwide staple for Detroit's new sound. His earnest lyricism from his Unfxckwitable EP and memorable guest features made this project among the most anticipated of the year. Now with newfound acclaim, it's time for Ray to present the FACE behind the rapper.
From its beginning, the album takes off quickly and showcases a lot of Babyface Ray's strengths. The intro "My Thoughts 3" is a strong ode to who the man behind the persona has become. Babyface uses a One Republic sample and hard organ loop to pen the confessions of the double-cupped, bag catcher with little breaks in between verses.
He really starts flexing his hit-making skills on his Icewear Veezo collaboration "6 Mile Show". It’s got this infectious strip club bounce with a background siren sounding like Magic City's strobe lights that's undeniable. The two Detroit rappers waste no time feeding off the energy and start trading bars back and forth immediately. Before you know it, the beat switches and the bounce gets groovier with a deep bassline that Ray and Veezo easily transition on. Given their solidified history for collaborating, the hit potential for "6 Mile Show" was almost a given.
His other Detroit connection doesn't miss either as Ray links up with 42 Dugg on the revengeful "Let Me Down". The 4PF signee has a hard time containing himself being a guest artist as he delivers a standout appearance on the song.
The third track "Sincerely Face" is the embodiment of how Babyface Ray's hometown-influenced sound has become so mainstream. The off-kilter bass and blunt piano keys sound difficult to navigate through but it's merely a comfort zone for him. Once Ray finds a pocket, it becomes hard not to bop your head the way he coasts through his lines.
That's exactly what happened on the reflective track "Overtime". Featured artist Yung Lean opens it up with a verse heroically detailing the mind of the young, ambitious, and unapologetic. By the time the beat drops, Ray floors the gas with a flow that skips across the beat like a rock on a lake. It isn't long before the rapper hijacks the high-paced instrumental with lines detailing his nocturnal lifestyle of a restless go-getter.
"Live a thug life, don't wanna die to notice me
F**k what a n**a say, I'm watchin' what they showin' me
Fresh as hell, in this life, tend to know it's me
Everybody can't go, you can't go with me"
One thing about this album is the pockets Ray finds for each song is literally making or breaking them. A lot of them with these beats sound like successful concoctions as unorthodox as Saweetie's food combinations. But when they don't hit, they stick out like a sore thumb. The album's full of high notes pointing out his star power but it's also flawed, reminding us it's still coming together. "Blood Sweat & Tears" with G Herbo is an example of a track that isn't necessarily bad, just not exactly memorable. The emotion of his tone and lyrics are synonymous with the heart-rending instrumental but his flow just doesn't mesh very well here. The same can be argued about the intro or "Idols".
Another flaw from this album is some of these songs don't sound deserving to be on the album tracklist. A lot of the album's moments would be noteworthy if they weren't next to project filler cuts. Like "Needed Some Love", the possible throwaways end abruptly and all sound somewhat underdeveloped. It's something to look out for but isn't something drowning the project down because the hits on here outweigh everything.
The album's collaborations are generally impressive and fitting to the different facets of his moniker. "Dancing With The Devil" with Pusha T and Landstrip Chip is a reflective track that appeals to the rapper's mafioso-style philosophies. Another sleeper hit is the Wiz Khalifa collaboration where Babyface Ray replaces the orange juice for lean on the wavy track "Kush and Codeine".
Even without support, the rapper reminds fans that he hasn't forgotten how to hold it down himself on songs. These are the ones that lean the heaviest towards his Detroit rap roots and enable him to shine the hardest. Cuts like the horn-heavy "Steak N Lobster" and the Miami Vice-esque "Go Yard" shine all by themselves.
FACE isn't anything new for 8-year rap veteran but it's a reminder how Babyface Ray has reached nationwide success. The album is an impressive release from the rapper as it chronicles his recent rise in stardom while remaining loyal to his hometown roots. When it's time for the 'best of the year' conversations, don't be surprised if Babyface Ray is mentioned after this.