ALBUM REVIEW | SAMURAI CHAMPS - CABERNET SAUVIGNON
The Saskatchewan based duo aims to impress with their ability to create a project full of versatility and high-points.
Samurai Champs have established themselves as the driving force in the fluid hip-hop scene for those looking for that Toronto-urban sound. Following a string of playlist hosted singles the group was ready to release the anticipated debut album that was sure to catch eyes and ears from the industry. Cabernet Sauvignon accomplishes those goals of nabbing the attention of many different listeners and with an elegant title such as that, they appear to do it the classy way. Although the project may look like it is going to be filled with smooth and fancy like the wine that the title references, their definitely is some grittiness present in the project. Aggressive tracks like “Midnight” and “Level” steal the spotlight for a period of time amidst the flow of more melodic and vocal heavy tracks. Samurai Champs are not afraid to lay it all out there to deliver their energy and emotions into this cohesive project dealing with heartbreak and self-discovery.
The album opens up with the track “Let Me Be Sad”; a song of honesty about respecting the time needed to experience emotion instead of succumbing to the pressure of maintaining a happy mindset while in the presence of others. There are times in life where the need to explore your own emotions is extremely important for mental strength and stability. Forcing yourself to keep up a charade of emotions can be detrimental. The bass driven track sets up a few great moments when it comes to the build-ups and the break-downs to properly emphasize key moments in the song. The cool melding of styles from Merv and Jeah in the opening track give the listener a taste of what is to come as you progress through the album. Although the track feels upbeat and forward, the sentiment behind it is clearly introspective and reserved giving the song the perfect balance of emotion and energy. This works well in setting the mood for the project as well as setting up for the party bop “Dripping”. The synth-heavy banger focusing a lead from Jeah about the passion devoted to creating the music and the lifestyle that comes with it. He makes it a point to mention that it’s not the money that drives him but the acceptance and success in having others appreciate the art for what it is. “Dripping” is a super fun song meant to get a crowd going during a live performance and succeeds at allowing the duo to display their energetic and powerful presence stage. The party presses on with the upbeat track “Poseidon” as the vibe transitions into a beach party setting (and fittingly so). The boosted self-confidence displayed in this track clashes with the opener in a way that it almost gives a sense of growth and self-discovery as the album travels along. The Kato produced track features colourful elements of smooth guitar and percussion allowing the track to maintain its versatility as the duo transition their way through the verses. The next two tracks are definitely two of the most memorable to me from the project with “Bae” delivering that feeling of new love and exploration. The connection that two people feel as they get closet to one another becomes so strong and unavoidable that it can, at times, feel like it will never end. Jeah’s excellent execution at a more melodic flow is definitely worth mentioning and Merv xx Gotti’s harmonies and fill-ins help to propel this track above a lot of the others. “Still Mine” follows as a more mature love ballad featuring a lot of the same elements displayed in “Bae” but with a little more sentiment and understanding. The emotion put forth in this song is impossible to pick up on and Merv absolutely kills the hook that maintains its sweet and simple message while continuing to be catchy and memorable.
At this point in the album, we see a change in tempo as the loud and aggressive track “Midnight” enters the stage with quick wordplay and loads of energy. The track focuses on the sense of disarray one might feel during a night of partying as the mood surrounding everyone in the room shifts as vices take over and push people to act a way that they don’t normally do. The duo carries that energy on to the next track “Level”. The braggadocious song where the artists felt it was necessary to check everyone and let them know that they aren’t playing the same game anymore. Jeah’s delivery on these two tracks definitely makes them the most hip-hop of the album as the duo continue to remind everyone that they are exceptional at switching the style up. With the next song, they do just that as the Merv xx Gotti led chill-hop track begins to grace our ears with a little interlude sampling the wonderful Kali Uchis. “Loner” features a somber performance from Merv as he bounces between his two ideologies of what love means to him and how much he can put towards a relationship with everything that life throws in the way. The use of melodies and panning in “Loner” deliver a sound that feels more full as it pulls you each way creating an interesting dynamic to pay attention to. Almost like grabbing on to a memory only to have it disappear. Samurai Champs close out with the title track of the album bringing everything to a satisfying wrap. The duo trades throughout the song with their classic push and pull emotions of the high-energy rapping to the introspective vocals. “Cabernet Sauvignon” acts like a celebration of Samurai Champs and everything they’ve achieved up to this point and the road ahead that they have their minds set to.
This project succeeds at highlighting the duo’s immense level of versatility amidst a flurry of spectacular production to deliver that extra “oomph”. The many levels to Cabernet Sauvignon span across a genre-fluid landscape to reach everyone’s ear. There surely will be one song that anyone could enjoy from this album. Saskatchewan’s leading hip-hop duo continues to impress the masses with their up-tempo live performances to the sheer artistry that creates the backbone of a project like this one.