Two years on from the release of his debut album, L-FRESH The LION has returned with ‘Become’.
Now with Australian hip-hop label Elefant Traks, L-FRESH The LION is an artist of growing repute down under. He may not quite be a household name just yet, but he most certainly isn’t far off, and thanks to numerous music-related appearances and radio airplay, his fanbase is ever-increasing even beyond those shores. Priced at AUD$16.99 (£8.99), there are 11 tracks on ‘Become’ with 7 featuring guest artists. Notably this album is available on CD and ships worldwide which is worth the expense for serious fans; the glossy packaging and inlay is complete with lyrics to every track, and is accompanied by a digital download of the album for that immediate play.
In contrast to his debut ‘One‘, ‘Become’ is an album with an eclectic mix of tracks. From the soft tones on ‘Pray for Me’ and ‘Black and White’, to the frenetic ‘Takeover’ and ‘1 in 100,000’, the album shows a progression in both musical ideas and production. The music is again largely produced in collaboration with Michael McGlynn and is itself a hypnotic experience. Synthesised phrases, classical percussion and choral harmonies sit side-by-side offering the listener the opportunity to meditate or dance in equal measure. The level of attention that has been paid to getting the music mixdown right lends itself well to the crisp vocals on every single track – it may have been two years since his last album release, but clearly L-FRESH The LION has been busy.
Like the music, the lyrics have a range from the deep to the casual – less something-for-everybody and more representational of the wide spectrum of emotional human nature. It would be easy to depict this as an album about race, politics or the artist’s way of life, but to do so would belie it’s true heart. ‘Become’ is essentially an exposition of L-FRESH The LION’s life at this time – which is invariably going to touch on the concerns of a brown, minority identity residing in Australia. As such it is difficult for him to avoid talking about standing out, or being discriminated against because it is still something that he faces every day, even in 2016. But listen to the lyrics closely and you find a soul spreading his wings, perhaps for the first time, in-part sharing the wisdom his experiences thus far have provided, as well as making observations on what he sees happening before him every single day. There are two departures from this in ‘Never alone’ and ‘Panjab: an introduction’ both of which veer towards infotainment, but as the artist states, “I don’t just represent myself“; true to his words in the former track he does well to weave a musical story out of miniature odes, unlike the bout of Punjabi lyricism which casts a shadow over the latter track. That brief misjudgement aside, he possesses a lyrical flow that consistently hits the mark. His is a voice that almost drawls, but does so at pace, keeping you attentive whilst relaxed. He carries the ability to make you think and make you move which is a deadly musical combination.
The stand-out tracks for me are ‘Get Mine’ and ‘unBecome’, both of which have a somewhat haunting sound that lingers even after they finish. In the digital market-place that now envelopes the music industry, I was pleased to hear an album of this type where tracks like that that I might not have looked for otherwise still have a place. There is something in that idea that reflects upon the artist too: when I first came across L-FRESH The Lion, my interest was piqued because he was a Sikh rapper of Punjabi background living in Australia; now I listen to his work because he is an intelligent and talented hip-hop artist. This album will open him up to new fans and audiences who will stay for the same reason, particularly in his native Australia where he goes on tour now for the next month. If you get the opportunity to see him live take it up and in the meantime give ‘Become’ a try – you won’t regret it.