Far From Familiar by Sylvan LaCue Review - Not Far From Greatness

Sylvan LaCue is a fantastic artist. Formerly known as Quest, he's a dope lyricist, an amazing storyteller and one of my favorite new school rappers. His last project, Searching Sylvan, was genuinely one of the biggest surprises I had in 2014. Honest, introspective and thought provoking. I just wanted Far From Familiar to be equally good, or better. While I'm still not ready to compare the two projects, I can tell you this is another amazing addition to Lacue's catalogue. Here's why:

After just one listen, I could tell LaCue hadn't changed much. Believe me, I mean it as a compliment. His bars are still relatable, and his flows is still sharp as a razor. However, when you look at the entire body of work, Far From Familiar is extremely unique. Sylvan and his team stepped out of their comfort zone, taking many musical risks  (use of abstract instrumentals and autotune). Most of the time, it beautifully pans out.

Now, the record has an incredibly strong start. The intro, "Loner", is an inspirational anthem about loneliness, full of energy, heavenly vocals and good vibes. Like I always say, your album is as good as the intro. "Loner" does not disappoint. Right after that, we get “Cruel World”. I love the production in this one. For the most part, it's composed of drums and a baseline. It gave me that 'African Tribe' feel, and my hips were shacking all over the place. I might be wrong, but it feels like Sylvan was inspired by Childish Gambino. The beat and voice effect he uses for the first minute or two remind me of 'Crawl'. The song is pretty good, and right when you think it couldn't get any better, the beat switches into an abstract, grimy sample, and LaCue spits a nasty, raw verse using different cadences. In songs like "Cruel World" and "Heavenly", he clearly displays an underrated aspect of his skills. His vocals. Seriously, this guy can sing his ass off.

Moving on, we eventually get to "Fall From Grace", the project's fantastic first single. A very angry, emotional LaCue reveals his frustration with the rap game, while letting us know that he has high goals. After a couple of tracks, I found the one song I didn't like in the project, "Emeryville". I'm just not a big fan of songs entirely made out of autotune. If properly used as a tool, it can add a lot of flavor. But I've never liked a song that is autotune from beginning to end, and this isn't the exception.

I was happy to see Caravan 04 in here. It's one of the best songs Sylvan has ever done. Period. It's intimate, heartfelt and a banger. All at the same time. Definitely a stand-out. Talking about stand-outs, this album has one of my favorite interludes ever. "Farleys". It does what an interlude is supposed to do: present a sweet song with no particular topic or direction. We get to see what's going through Sylvan's brain, over some smooth production and background vocals. Loved it!

Immediately following that, we get the loudest, most 'commercial' song in here, "Back To The City". A loud, banging beat and a ridiculously catchy hook are the foundation that allow Sylvan to use his endless supply of charisma to deliver some vicious verses. I love the ending sequence the album presents. As soon as this banger ends, we get a splendid song dedicated to Sylvan's mother. "Crosswinds" is divided in two segments. The first one is a very Kanye-esque ballad, in which Sylvan tells his mother about his new found fame, using autotune and a very mellow, enjoyable verse. However, the second part of this song is undoubtedly my favorite moment in the entire album. Some heaven made trumpets kick in, Sylvan uses an intonation I didn't think he had in him, and he has a conversation with God. LaCue displays his insecurities, and God recognizes the fact that Sylvan could have sold out for the money, but he stuck to his guns and vision. A beautiful musical moment.

The last two tracks are extremely sad and personal. "Give Me The World" is a depressing track in which Sylvan talks about his aspirations, the hardships he has encountered, and the death of a close friend. Even if I felt the production was a tad underwhelming, the content and lines easily carry it out. Finally, the project wraps up with an insanely introspective track, "At What Cost?". Sylvan doesn't hold back, talking about broken relationships, damaged friendships, leaving VMG, and his family. Emotions are made even stronger by the guitar cords playing all throughout the song. It also works as a track that quickly summarizes the entire album's plot. Extraordinary outro.

Overall, I think the album is great. This guy know how to make an project. Dope start/ending, cohesive, and extremely rich when it comes to substance. I also thought the story arc was sensational! After releasing his last project, he quickly gets lost in the fame and substances. Just when his life is about to fall apart, he goes back home to his family, and finally discovers his identity and his purpose. Lastly, I was charmed by Sylvan's storytelling skills. He's not telling you a typical rapper's tale. He's sharing HIS story. And he treats it like a top-level TV show, using flashbacks. Whenever he would talk about his father, or when certain skits from Searching Sylvan were randomly played, I instantly felt nostalgic. I remembered where I was when LaCue told me the first part of his story, and I got emotional. It's hard for music to have that effect on me, and Far From Familiar absolutely nailed it.

Verdict: Far From Familiar is a powerful, brutally honest album about self-discovery, love, and dreams. Wise up, and check this one out.

Favorite Tracks
- Crosswinds
- At What Cost?
- Back to the City
- Farleys
- Caravan 04
- Cruel World
- Loner

Least Favorite Tracks
- Emeryville

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