Fler - Colucci (Review)

Martin_Canine
FLER
Colucci
★★★★½

Top notch production and straightforward talk - Fler is back to form!

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It took Fler 14 years of his career before he would release his milestone album Vibe. Although his 2002 debut record Carlo Cokxxx Nutten (by German rap standards, that's like the early 90s for US hip hop), a collaboration with Bushido (who would go on to become the best selling German rapper ever), is considered one of the most essential and important German hip hop albums of all time, almost everybody associates it with his collaborator first, sometimes even forgetting it was a collaboration in the first place. For over a decade, Fler tried to keep up with all the other innovators in the scene, and although his albums always entered the top ten (including a chart topper in 2015), he was never seen as a particularly influential MC, but rather someone who's always been a part of the game that people got used to. But Vibe was his moment of glory, as it had the street centered rapper importing trap to Germany, at a time when everyone was making hardcore battle rap. Other famous rappers like Shindy slightly embraced this formerly specifically American rap style, but no one dared to pull it off as boldly. It was a turning point in German hip hop that made hardcore hip hop outdated overnight, and paved the way for artists like Capital Bra (who in the meantime has more number one hits than the Beatles), Raf Camora & Bonez MC (whose second collaboration album took up 13 of the 15 top spots on the Austrian song charts, which lead to a new rule that allows a maximum of 3 songs per album to enter the charts at the same time) and Mero (whose debut single became the most streamed song by a newcomer).

After that, he appeared to be in a creative limbo. The follow up Epic (a collaboration with newcomer Jalil, who was more or less downgraded to a constant feature guest on the Fler show) was good, but felt more like an extension of Vibe, and his 2018 album Flizzy sounded so routine that no tracks left much of an impression. It's what I call the Drake effect. Repeating your distinctive style that you are loved and praised for so excessively and casually until it doesn't sound fresh anymore, although there's nothing wrong with the music itself. However, now comes Colucci, and heck, this is the sequel we've really been waiting for. It's dark, it's dirty, and in a strange way, it's very bittersweet. Vibe established a style, and Epic and Flizzy were essentially trying to deliver banger after banger, but Colucci is calmer and filled with real emotions - which you wouldn't expect from a record named after a fashion brand.

This new development already shows on the masterful beats by Simes Branxon, which more often than not are built around melancholic strings worthy of a tragic scene in a great Hollywood drama in which a character breaks out in tears after having witnessed the senseless violence of war (just listen to Drip, Keinen wie mich or Legendary and you'll get what I mean). Other outstandingly emotive melodies can be found in the piano of Vermächtnis or the graceful female aria on Jedes Gramm. The heavy intensity of the samples used here is very visceral, and very effective, and gives the rapper much ground to work on. They play a major part in the success of the album, but ultimately, it's the artist who perfects the overall impression.

What distincts Fler from other trap rappers that came after him are his authentic street roots, which are apparent throughout the music. Unlike newer trappers who convince through earworm choruses and live a rags-to-riches fantasy, Fler knows the hard sides of life very well, and lives by a certain unwritten, old fashioned code of honor (one of several examples [translated from German]: "Tell me what does your life bring to you? / Tell me what have you taken? And given in return?"). When he mentions his wealth, it's always in believable appreciation that he has earned it himself, and that he made it out of the ghetto solely through his own work (that is both music and drug trafficking). When he talks about his hate for the current hip hop scene, that's not just a punchline to demonstrate superiority, it shows how he feels about the evolution of the very form of expression he used to fully embody when he was still poor. Great lyricism was never Fler's strength, he is direct and anything but subtle, but in this case, that makes it all the more credible. In combination with the sentimental beats, it forms a rough and gripping style deliberately not sounding all too artificial. What Fler says, he means. As it has always been the case since rap was still a street genre that was nowhere near the charts. It's somewhat ironic how the very guy that brought a new modern style to the scene is so obviously rooted in an oldschool mindset. This, and the fact that he is not reliant on radio ready autotune choruses and instead merely adapts the modern flows while rapping traditionally (his flow could be compared to Drake's on Energy) sets him apart from the generation of trappers that came after him.

Colucci feels like one unit from beginning to end. The songs all share a common vibe and sound, but within this premise, they all vary so much that it remains exciting throughout the album. It's significantly darker and more humorless than his previous trap efforts, feeling more like a ride through the dark night, with the now millionaire revisiting the scruffy places where it all began. What we get here is an album with a distinctive creative and atmospheric vision that sticks out of the artist's body of work.

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