“I made it on TV/ but couldn’t get no spins in Richmond.” Welcome to Monument Ave, Noah-O’s strongest, most cohesive project ever. You may or may not remember that the video for Noah-O’s single “I Got It” made it onto MTV Jams. An undeniable symbol of success, a career-defining moment, but also something that didn’t translate into the confabulatory expectation that is “industry success.” The game is twisted and not for the weak of heart, and neither is life. Since then, Noah-O has lost family, as well as Kleph Dollaz, who was like a brother and mentor. He has continued to support his own family, and witnessed the many changes that have taken place in this city when it comes to being a “rapper.” He has also grown up. That growth, along with the soul sample-laden production of Taylor Whitelow, is what is at the forefront of Monument Ave.
Sure, some tracks like “Find My Way,” featuring Chance Fischer and Erikka J, do run a bit long. And yes, “Ackup” does stick out like a sore thumb as the “dance record” of the project. But it’s songs like “Trap” and the Sam Reed-enhanced (not just featured) “Destiny” that represent Noah-O’s coming of age. He even trades bars with the legendary MC and ghost writer Skillz (who is “retired,” might I add!), teams up with Nickelus F and Red Rum to tell you about home on “RICH,” and brings a strong set of MC’s together on “G.M.M.C,” along with a notable feature from Radio B on “Toast 2 Success,” yet somehow manages to not make this project feel overcrowded. The combo record conclusion that is “Klephnote/Finality” adds a sincere tone of closure, and serves as a period on the statement that this project makes.
“The melody in life/ some days it ain’t sweet/ but I take it all in stride/ I keep moving to the beat/ that’s the beauty of it/ learn to love it for what it is/ the experience that molded to a man from a kid/ I seek knowledge/ gain wisdom/ now I got understanding….” -“The Letter”
Youth. The gift, the curse. You gotta crawl before you walk, right? Well Q-Fresh decided from the get-go he was going to do his best to run, and if he stumbles, so be it. He walks on “FHSIM” (Fuck High School I Made It) which is basically him talking about his current and future greatness, despite him sounding sad if not distraught over the abstract production. The first thing I thought of when I heard it was Little Pain. The second track, “Louisiana Slang,” is where he runs, sonically if not lyrically. A strong, steady delivery and a simple loop are always a winning combination, and this track warrants a listen, though it ends early and has a skit of sorts attached to it. From there, he stumbles on “INTLD” then catches his stride again on “G.I.L.E.S” before things fall apart on tracks such as “Gold Digger.” On this track, he rhymes underwhelmingly over Big Pun’s “I’m Not A Player” about a girl, deflating much of the confidence built in the previous highlights. What remains is potential, but by the time you reach the last track, “Da Suxxess,” it’s clear that though Q is talented, he needs to find his rhythm, pace, and stride if he ever is really going to make it.