By DJ Hosley
Imagine you’re a young musician, writer, or artist of some sort with an undying desire to ‘make it big’. You’re dedicated to your dream and you’ve worked hard to establish and maintain a core fan base by releasing projects and selling merchandise.
You’ve made sacrifices – namely, you left your family and friends at home to travel to the biggest city in a new country all by yourself. You dropped out of school, quit your job, and the revenue you generate from selling t-shirts all goes towards the pursuit of your dream.
You’re one of the only – if not the only – member of your race to achieve some notoriety in this field. Everyone believes that what you’re doing is crazy, stupid, and childish. But your ambition won’t let them get to you. You’re on the cusp of success, determined to sign that big deal, finally be able to financially support yourself and your family, and prove everyone who doubted you wrong.
And then back home, your mother gets diagnosed with cancer and dies.
That’s only part of the true story narrated lyrically by the man who has lived through it.
Introducing Russell Llantino, better known as “Pryde”, a 22-year-old Filipino rapper/singer hailing from Brampton, Ontario, residing in New York ever since he was 16.
On March 25, Pryde, who gained popularity on Youtube, released his sixth project – mixtape, album, whatever you want to call it – for free download. Pryde called the free mixtape i don’t belong here, and revealed that it is only “the album before the album”, preparing fans for RUSSELL, a second album slated for release in 2016.
The twelve-track album features a versatile mix between singing and rapping, jumping from an Eminem-like witty and humorous style, to a Future-like hype and club sound, to Drake-like emotional and serious music.
The album solidifies not only Pryde’s growth as an artist, but also as a person. He went from violent and profane raps with doo-rags and a tipped hat when he was 14, to a non-explicit, purposefully squeaky clean glasses and Bieber-hair image when he was 17. He never had a consistent style, and that frustrated a lot of fans. When he was 20, he began swearing again and promoting a “grown-up” lifestyle, with alcohol, tattoos, and music video women draped all over him. For a lot of fans, the change was too drastic, and Pryde experienced big drops in video views and support.
One thing that’s never changed with Pryde is his ability to use his music to tell his story so vividly that fans feel for him. From the 2015 Plan A album, where he rapped about the pressure of blowing up quickly before his mother died, to this album, where he raps about how his life and his ambition changed following his mother’s death – his fans always know where he is at.
“This one is for my momma,” says Pryde as the intro song, properly titled “Roses”, begins (his mother’s name was Rose Llantino). In probably his most powerful song to date, Pryde explains how his mother deserved all the credit for the continued pursuit of his dream through every obstacle. Skits of her voice saying, “You deserve the world”, and “I have to let him go”, play in the background. As the beat picks up, Pryde takes us right into the hospital room, rapping about his last seconds with his mom as the sound of a heart-monitor begins to speed up in the background. As she finally passes away and the beat fades temporarily, Pryde says, “Since April 9th when Rose Llantino died I ain’t been the same”. The hospital room scene changes to an image of broken man staring into a mirror, aware of how much he has changed, but how far he has come thanks to his mother.
The album tone changes on tracks three through five, with blaring club-type beats as seen in “Aggressive”, where Pryde chants the anthem-like phrase “I came here with nothing!” Songs like “Nuff Said” and “I Don’t Belong” share the same party-jump vibe exhibited in “Aggressive”, but also convey one of Pryde’s main messages in the album: He doesn’t fit in with the rap “game”. He doesn’t have a record deal. He doesn’t want to compete. He just wants to use his own style to make money so he can support his family while having fun with his friends.
Tracks six and seven, “U2” and “Thompson Diner Freestyle” respectively, display Pryde’s trademark obnoxious, yet playful humor and wit over uptempo, distinctively different fun beats. Tracks eight through eleven, “Lost and Found”, “Healer”, “Feeliam Shakespeare”, and “When It’s All Over”, shift to a more pop-emotional sound where Pryde is addressing his experiences with relationships and different women.
The outro track, “An Ear To Listen”, returns to the clear-cut, serious tone exhibited in “Roses”. Pryde presents a timeline of his music journey, starting with 2012 in New York with no money and no direction. In the chorus he sings, “What am I to do? Give me an ear, I need to say these things to you.” He picks up with 2014, explaining how his hard work with his friends is beginning to pay off, but his relationship with his older brother has crumbled. After another round of the chorus, the beat fades and a gentle piano plays as Pryde begins his verse about 2015:
“In 2015, I thought it was over,
It was the end of September, I couldn’t be sober.
Near my birthday I felt the edge coming closer,
Mom ain’t here, I’m 22 without her on my shoulders”.
He continues that same verse by recounting conversations with his friends about what to do with no money and an urge to give up. He contextualizes his music to the entire landscape of the hip hop industry by saying, “But now it’s just myself in this business with some dollars to invest, in an industry where I am not the best.” He understands that in this new wave of pop-rap there are a lot of talented artists with “bangers” and “dope beats” who also have the publicists and investors funding them while he stands alone and doesn’t seem to fit in.
It’s verses like the ones in the intro and outro of i don’t belong here that showcase Pryde’s best attribute — his storytelling ability. After he admits that his 2015 album Plan A didn’t have the commercial success he had hoped for, to reach the goal of making him “blow up” before his mother passed away, Pryde uses i don’t belong here to assure fans that he has come a long way, that he has seen the bottom, and that he’s not going to give up on them or on his mother. And that is a lot to be proud of.
To check out Pryde’s i don’t belong here, download it for free at: http://www.richvale.online/
On Pryde’s YouTube channel, there are music videos for “Nuff Said”, “Healer”, “Thompson Dinner Freestyle”, and recently released was a video for “Aggressive”. Pryde has hinted that “U2” will be the next song from i don’t belong here to be complimented by a music video, though no release date has been set.
*Warning: Explicit Content*