Blxst – Before You Go

West coast rapper and singer Blxst has already scored a couple of hits and worked alongside some iconic figures like Nas, Snoop Dogg and E-40 before putting out his debut album. Essentially going full R&B, Blxst leans more than ever towards his soulful tones and beachside vibe as he runs through a series of tracks about relationships in varying states of strength. While Blxst has quite a bit of talent on a technical level, delivering some impressive vocal performances, and the instrumentals on the project are enough to get most people moving, Before You Go proves that he’s still slightly underdeveloped from the perspective of songwriting and structure. Blxst shows a lot of potential, but many of these tracks don’t show a lot of personality and melt into the trendy sounds of today. Still, if you’re looking for something new to throw on in the background, you likely can’t get much better than this.

Blxst just showed up on Kehlani’s latest album, and there are quite a few moments here where the sun-dappled sound, languid guitar strums and shimmering synths that make up the album’s sound really make him reminiscent of a male Kehlani in her career beginnings, circa 2015’s You Should Be Here, right down to the flippant, conversational lyrics. After a brief intro that subsumes listeners in the album’s overarching vibe, “Never Was Wrong” continues it with some engaging sax embellishments in the background. While “tripping like my shoe’s untied” is such a simple and clever line that it’s a wonder nobody’s used it before, the track – like most – is pretty generic and bland. Blxst tries his best with a couple somewhat unexpected and fun melodic diversions in his rap-sung flow, but it’s something he pulls off a lot better on the next track “About You.”

If anything sets Blxst apart from his contemporaries, it’s the way he meanders up and down the scales while pulling off speedier, half-rapped passages, simultaneously showing off the powers of his range and rhythmic abilities. Driven by more of a knocking beat and a great bassline surrounded by watery chords, this is one of the more memorable melodies on the project. “Fake Love in LA” sees the sound already getting a little repetitive, but Blxst and Arin Ray have a solid vocal contrast and offer a nice sentiment as they offer a potential partner something real in the overwhelmingly fake world of the City of Angels.

The album continues with a series of tracks that are mostly average, but each one with an element that keeps things a little interesting and shows a lot of promise for Blxst’s future. The track “Pick Your Poison” throws a trap beat onto the beachside sound and sees Blxst mostly stick to safe melodies that don’t venture outside of his comfort zone, but an extended violin solo from close friend and producer Grandmaster Vic genuinely adds so much due to it being such a surprise in a mostly uniform-sounding project. “Couldn’t Wait For It” brings Rick Ross on board for a track in his typical wheelhouse: that is, being the master of sounding like he’s dripping in opulence on a laid-back hip-hop beat. Blxst is a little more focused on straight-up bars on this track and does a little flexing, which is a nice change of pace from the relationship material. Dropping a line like “I can’t do mediocre, gotta be GOAT approved” is a bold move – he certainly has mingled with some GOATs, but as he aptly points out on the very next song, Blxst is still at the beginning and working his way up, figuring out what works for him and what doesn’t. “Still Omw” features some truly overused rhymes and cuts off too early, but with some funkier aspects to the instrumental that make it stand out, this could have been one of the better tracks if it were fully worked through. Still, it offers promise that Blxst’s claim that he’ll soon be coming for the top might ring true.

Tracks like “Keep Comin’ Back” and “Sometimes” keep up the trend of having one thing that keeps tracks from being dismissible despite the album’s distinct energy wearing thin as things progress into the second half. The former has a bit more of an ambitious angle when it comes to the instrumental as the guitar parts are chopped up to isolate some speedier, transitional moments although the track once again feels incredibly short, while the latter brings another higher-voiced singer in Zacari on board for Blxst to bounce off of. Zacari brings some of the much-needed personality the album needs with some standout bars, but can’t save the track from a messily-executed transition near the end. “Every Good Girl,” on the other hand, reaches back into the past for a new sound to liven things up. With the icy synths of an LL Cool J sample, Blxst brings one of his most impressive vocal performances of the album to the table and the track’s harmonies pop out of the mix – he really sounds a lot like Ty Dolla $ign on this one. The project winds down with a couple more tracks without much new going for them – the instrumental of “Be Forreal” gives a bit too many flashbacks to Justin Bieber’s “Intentions” – but “Let It Be Known” finishes things off with Blxst on a little more of a storytelling angle as he offers a final dismissal of the fakes.

With so many iconic figures in his corner and as much natural talent as he has, there shouldn’t be any way that Blxst doesn’t improve on this project in the future as he hones his craft in the studio. Quite a few things on this project worked well – it’s just a matter of figuring out which ones those were.

Favourite Tracks: About You, Every Good Girl, Fake Love in LA, Still Omw

Least Favourite Track: Be Forreal

Score: 6/10

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