Pierce: Phoenix Party, Vol 1

The history of Ohio rap is well-known but not as illustrious as its coastal counterparts; it may not even be as storied as fellow midwest cities like Chicago or Detroit. But artists like Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Hi-Tek, Blueprint, and others makes Ohio have some cred. From that scene emerges Pierce. The rapper/multi-instrumentalist recently released his debut album, Phoenix Party, Vol 1. Featuring collaborations with other artists and producers, the nine songs showcase different sides of the artist–some are more compelling than others.

Although the album contains nine tracks, two are basically interludes. Opening track, “I Am a Revolutionary” is just over a minute long but does contain some rapping by Pierce. The later “Teagues Interlude” is only nine seconds, hardly a blip on the album’s 21 minute running time.

The first full-length track “Enemies in the Room” starts with Pierce rhythmically speaking over piano arpeggios before he breaks into a more full-on flow when the beat drops. He raps with urgency over the laidback beat but when collaborator, Khu the Blade enters, he plays down to the tempo. The slowed down flow saps much of the energy from the track, although his wordplay does inject some much needed levity into the weighty subject matter.

“Control/Destiny” sees Pierce waxing poetic about keeping himself in check and motivated while understanding somethings are out of his hands. The rhymes enlightened content is enhanced by the Ghostshaft beat which is filled with lush synth pads and sparse percussion. The song reverses course from “Enemies in the Room” and this time the slam poetry delivery closes out the track.

The dynamic between rapping and spoken word is revisited throughout the album. Closing track, appropriately titled “Conclusion” just features spoken word over guitar arpeggios laid down by featured artist, Lucid Yusuf. The only other guitar-forward song on the album is “Cigarette Shelf Life” where Pierce delivers a fuzzed out bass line and noisy lead guitar. It is one of the few times Pierce picks up his instrument besides “Enemies in the Room” where he lays down a melodic bass line that compliments the verses.

It is unfortunate that the more guitar forward tracks are relegated to the last two (non-interlude) tracks on the album. It gives Phoenix Party, Vol 1 an unevenness where it feels like the more experimental parts are backloaded. Still, it is refreshing to have such a well-rounded artist who manages to be a skilled rapper and is not afraid to experiment with different styles and genres.

Rating: 6.5/10

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