The kid’s got heart. He’s got concepts. There’s a well-known and talented producer behind the boards. There’s depth to his lyrics.
But listening to Willie Will’s major label debut, Reflection, there still seems to be some sort of disconnect.
I mean, I liked Will’s cameo on Soul P’s “Do My Thang” and we’ve heard him sound nice on the Best of the Submissions mixtapes…. but I’m simply not “wowed!”
That’s not to say there isn’t any quality work here though. “Say So”, in particular, caught me in the second round with its clever, two-fisted hook:
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so / “So!”
If you’ve been redeemed by the Lord say so / “So!”
Let it show / put your fist in the air and say /“So!”
Which later turns into:
Man, I used to see you in the club… / “So?!?”
Man, I used to see you smokin’ bud… / “So?!?”
Man, I used to see you with them thugs… / “So?!?”
Man, you was with them chicks gettin’ love… / Man…“So?!?”
In truth, that’s actually one of the dopest turns of phrase I’ve heard in a while.
And “Blame Game” does a cool perspective shift in each verse where Will narrates the story of finger-pointing Christians named Johnny, Donny, and Ronnie. Again, you may not catch it on the first listen, but as you give it a second or third spin the pieces of the puzzle come together to create a cool little portrait.
I was also impressed at the honesty and storytelling of “Help Me” where Willie Will admits his fight against Flesh to lend tangible aid to those in his immediate vicinity who are suffering. In this song you get several snapshots with poignant details that paint a clear picture of the scene and situation.
So that’s at least three check marks in the “Plus” column right?
Maybe it was the over polished production. Todd Collins has been known to make some nice beats and guide a project to success with equal amounts of commercial and street acumen. (See Soul P’s “The Premiere.”)
But most of the backbeats here just fall flat. The only real heat is found in “Move Somethin’” and “Say So.”
And if those are the head nodders, the head scratcher may be the indiscernible chorus of “All For You.”
This track is very similar to Knine’s “For You” in that it tells the Easter story from the perspective of the Crucified Savior. Unfortunately, in this version you can’t tell what the words are in the hook.
Is he saying “It’s God baby?”, “It’s all baby?”, or “It’s on baby?”
It’s the most powerful story in the world and yet the muddy loop leaves the listener in the dark. Quite puzzling indeed.
Perhaps my ambivalence toward this record is that whenever there’s a featured performance (Soul P on “We Don’t Back Down” and k-Drama on “Shine”) I’m more drawn to the guest’s verse than Will’s.
It could also be that on a song like “No” Willie Will sounds like a right-wing Republican hitting all the key platform issues of gay marriage, school prayer, and keeping the word “God” on our currency and in our national pledge.
It’s not that I think these items aren’t worthy of discussion or exploration. It’s just that they seem
1) out of place on this album,
2) like talking points from the “No Spin Zone”, and
3) like it’s a calculated attempt to reach a target demographic.
So, what’s the final grade? I have to conclude that it’s an unbalanced sum of highs and lows that make it an average contribution to the Beatmart catalog.
Willie Will has both talent and potential. It’s just not reflected in great portion here.
Release Date: June 5 2007
Record Label: Beatmart Recordings
1. Reflection Intro
2. Say So
3. Move Somethin'
4. Shine - (with K-Drama)
5. Get Up - (with Sheree Hinton)
6. Bottom Dollar
7. Blame Game
8. Wanna Roll - (with Jazz Digga)
9. Honor You
10. We Don't Back Down - (with Soul P)
12. All For You
13. Help Me - (with Jazz Digga)
15. God's Been Good