Samuel Mangano, otherwise known as Samuel J., releases his newest concept album, Grown, that strings together a ten-part story that is full of skillful articulation, highly produced beats, humor, heart, and a reminder of why hip-hop continues to succeed and surprise the music scene.
It’s one thing to conceive a full-length album with catchy tracks to keep you listening throughout its entirety; it’s another to conceive a full-length album with a story in mind, and telling that story from start to finish while still maintaining the quality catchy songs to remember. This is exactly what Samuel and his talented close friend, Alex Rowe (otherwise known as Archer) achieves, and it’s incredibly satisfying to listen to.
Immediately from the start of this album, I was given a Lil Dicky vibe from the way Samuel’s vocals and ranges of style he flows in each track. However, the more I listened the more I realized that Samuel indeed has his own voice and style that seemed more approachable as a listener. Perhaps it’s because Samuel and his college experiences along with musical tastes feel more relate-able, or the fact that his ambitions created something very inspiring and genuine that makes it’s more enjoyable as a listener.
The album, which was written by Samuel himself and entirely produced, mixed, and mastered by Archer, stands strong with competitors as far professionalism and entertaining throughout. The first track, “Fuqboi“, is the perfect opening; setting the tone with a beautiful groove of rhythm guitar and flow providing a smooth sense of how Samuel and Alex work together to bring an engaging new take on alternative hip-hop. The concept and story begins here, plotting the lines of a young man in college and his “fuck boy” tendencies with a douchey attitude, and quickly moves forward with “Dave Franco” as he begins to claim that he is on the rise of success and that his school will treat him like a hero. From there on out, the story will take our main character through a journey of excitement, lust, triumph, defeat, self-realization, and ultimately, acknowledgment of his flaws with his final track “Fuck Boy (Credits)“, and gives him a sense that he has grown from them.
Of course Samuel doesn’t expect all of his listeners to follow this hidden story from start to finish when they first listen to his album. In fact, it may even take a few listens to fully capture the sense he is going for. We’ll save the explanation of the story as a whole for you to discover or when Samuel is able to tell it more directly; however, standing as an album on it’s own and taking a peek at individual tracks is still very much enjoyable. Tracks like “Dave Franco“, “Outside The Frat House“, and “Waves“, all bring a variety of flavors to Samuel’s talents and reassuring the listener that he can approach any style with confidence and originality.
This entire album reminds me of a lot of low-fi hip-hop that I frequently listen to when it comes to the beats and style of the instrumentals. But what really stands out to me is the fact that live instruments are also accompanied on most tracks. It takes a lot of time, energy, and thought to sit and write music, let alone compose it. Archer and Samuel both work flawlessly together to achieve this and overall it seems that they made something very special.
Discovering artists is always a true pleasure when you see the talent behind the music. I believe Samuel and Archer both have exciting roads ahead of them if they continue their musical journey, and I’m anxious to see what comes next from the dynamic duo. Grown is much more than just a concept album. It’s a genuine creative collaboration among friends with a true drive of passion behind it.
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