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Mixtape Review: Fredo Santana – Walking Legend

September 8th, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

fredosantawalkinglegend

 

Mixtape Review of Fredo Santana – Walking Legend, courtesy of Meaghan Garvey 

Though Walking Legend is his fifth mixtape in less than two years (not counting his digitally-retailed 2013 album, Trappin Ain’t Dead), Fredo Santana’s still primarily associated with a song on which he doesn’t actually show up. When Lil Reese snarled, “Fredo in the cut, that’s a scary sight!” on Chief Keef’s “I Don’t Like,” Fredo was instantly immortalized in drill folklore. But I’d wager that the vast majority of listeners who’ve shouted that line a hundred times would be hard-pressed to name more than a couple Fredo Santana songs, if any. Over the last couple years, the face-tatted rapper has been known as a streetwearmuse, a meme, and a musicvideovillain (the latter of which he unexpectedly nailed), but the music itself has rarely received the same kind of attention. In part, this is due to the relatively narrow scope through which national media’s tended to cover drill. But despite a generous handful of great one-offs over the past few years—“Beef,” “Rob My Plug,” “My Lil Niggas”—none of his full-length projects ever felt like he was fully invested.

 

That changes on Walking Legend, the best mixtape of his career thus far. As the sounds of drill we grew used to in 2012 have gradually started to feel a bit stale, Fredo’s wisely switched things up here without sacrificing any heaviness or cathartic energy. The production sounds expensive and intriguing, packed with interesting little details that keep your attention piqued all the way through. On “All I Ever Wanted,” Metro Boomin’s beat constantly shape-shifts, smashing the drill-by-numbers status quo. The sing-songy “Coming Up,” with its icy nursery rhyme of a Will-A-Fool production, evokes a sinister flip-side to Soulja Boy’s proto-bop classic “Zan With That Lean.” The Atlanta producer contributes a solid chunk of the beats here, adding to the sense that on Walking Legend, Fredo’s as much influenced by the AutoTuned confessionals of Atlanta heavyweights (Rich Homie Quan in particular) as he is by his Chicago peers. “Fuck The Otherside,” again by Will-A-Fool, is a solid riff on Nard & B’s shimmering backdrop for Future’s “Neva End”. Young Chop’s gorgeous, wind-chimey production on “Half Of It” sets the scene for Quan-style recollection of past struggles.

 

But the most impressive aspect of Legend is the extent to which Fredo has stepped up his own skills. With a catalog that is decidedly more brawn than brains, he’s never been known as a lyricist (though, don’t forget, he did go toe-to-toe with Kendrick last year). However, Walking Legend finds Fredo in storytelling mode, revealing a much more contemplative side than he’s ever let on. On the poignant centerpiece “Stay Da Same,” he recounts: “I remember cold nights, broke as fuck ain’t have a dime / Lost a lotta guys, sometimes I wanna press rewind.” It’s a welcome counterpoint to the ever-present scowl of his past work. And while his flow has often felt stilted in the past, he’s consistently in the pocket here. Sometimes he dips into his approximation of a Gucci Mane flow, as on “Check Came In” (“In Chicago in my condo getting top from plenty women / In the kitchen with the fork, yeah I’m making trap decisions”); sometimes the rhythm is wholly his own (“Turnt up with that pipe on me, glo’d up with that light on me,” from “Half Of It,” the tape’s lyrical peak). Regardless, it’s clear that Fredo pushed himself to realize his long-teased promise on Walking Legend, finally proving he’s more than just a scary sight—he’s a pretty formidable rapper, too.

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