Let it be known, the SEA rapper known as Eighty4Fly is not a man wishing to have his voice be heard from the underground. The subterranean recesses where the majority of Eighty’s fellow small-market emcees are cutting their teeth is a place where rappers on the come-up are paid in favors, free press and maybe a co-sign by rap tastemakers like 2DopeBoyz. If they’re lucky. Ain’t no rapper makin’ Young Money money when the only venue he/she is playing is in Seattle on Thursday nights.

And really, can anyone blame rappers like Eighty for aiming at that higher tax bracket? When similarly talented “emcees” like Drake are “telling punchlines for money,” a hungry cat like Eighty is surely dreaming of the day he can turn his black leather sofa into one money green like Biggie’s. Judging by his most recent free mixtape, 1st Class In Fly World, I’d say his chances are about fifty/fifty that those dreams come to fruition.

Not saying that Eighty isn’t putting his best foot forward, but 1st Class, though longer and slightly more expansive musically than his previous ‘tape, The Eighty4Fly Project, is still a lot of style over substance. The Clear Channel appeal of tracks like “Power” and “Good Life” is apparent, and the wet dream money fantasy, “Such A Millionaire,” sounds like diamonds dripping onto the hood of a pearl white Maybach. While these full-pocket reveries are clearly not my sh-t, I still appreciate them for what they are. The problem here is that I am listening intently for more. Hoping, wishing — praying, even — that Eighty is able to step up his game, lyrically. Yet he consistently lets me down.

Eighty4Fly, like most rappers who can still recall what it is to be an artist whose medium is words, is at his best when being one of two things: 1) grimier, like on the refreshingly pure “Hip Hop Shit;” and 2) introspective, as he is on the moment-of-truth ballad “Optimistic.” Maybe some would qualify me as a hater and maybe I’ve outlived my usefulness when it comes to considering the range of quality across the breadth of hip-hop’s now vast landscape. But I’m sure even the most expert of culinary experts would grow tired of eating the same dish fifteen times out of seventeen meals, even if that dish was prepared by a chef with the greatest authority in his particular comestible genre. And therein lies the main gripe I have with Eighty4Fly: he’s not even an expert in his own field. By all accounts he’s a coach-class rapper who manages to bump his way into first-class from time to time. Until he proves otherwise, label me a skeptic.

(Click the album covers below for the FREE download link for 1st Class In Fly World.)

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