It’s been three years since Fresh Espresso dropped its debut album Glamour, a record filled with club-packing beats and an abundance of clever lyrical wordplay. That record quickly became an instant classic in Seattle’s third wave of hip hop and made Fresh Espresso the most easily accessible group in the notorious Out For Stardom crew. The combination of P Smoov’s skills as a producer/rapper and Rik Rude’s cool-as-ice flow is Fresh Espresso’s strength and that winning combo is in full effect on the group’s sophomore full-length Bossalona; a record that improves — but doesn’t necessarily expand — upon Glamour’s greatness.
The grime and glam sound of Glamour has been polished and given the added flair of pure swagger for Bossalona. That polishing is evident on “Hush,” which is a close cousin to “Diamond Pistols,” and “Bedroom,” one of the album’s strongest songs, which sounds like a Glamour outtake. This more of the same approach doesn’t offer much expansion of the duo’s sound, but the familiarity is part of what helps Bossalona excel.
Lyrically the pair keep up their previously established playboy personas while boasting about their prowess as rappers and conquests in the bedroom. Nearly every one of the record’s 14 tracks features a few bars about either the greatness of Fresh Espresso’s two members or indirect sexual innuendo (though most of the time it’s pretty direct). This can be a bit grinding and repetitive and is one of the album’s few flaws.
“Yommie,” a track with a bit of a Bollywood vibe, is tailor-made for bad girls who date rappers to piss off their parents (the song’s closing refrain “You gonna still be fly when you grow up/Cuz your mama fly as hell even though she hates my guts). Elsewhere, Rude and Smoov exchange verses about their lyrical greatness on the album’s title track (ex: “I am to music what Stephan Gray is to film”). “Lake Michigan,” an ode to Smoov and Rude’s home state of Michigan, is one of the few offerings that doesn’t revolve around women or hip-hop skills. It’s an interesting choice for a record by a Seattle hip-hop group and shows the group’s ambition to grow outside of the Northwest.
On the production side of things, P Smoov is seriously on top of his beat-making game delivering some of the best work of his career. Lots of tracks pack solid backbones of synthesized bloops, blips, bleeps and plenty booming bass. But it’s not all computerized sounds that make up Bossalona’s soundscape. There’s a nice use of horns on several tracks — especially “Goodnight Sinatra” and “You Can Have It,” two of the record’s highlights — giving the songs slightly jazzy undertones.
The album’s solid production and the flirtatious wordplay by Rude and Smoov make Bossalona a musical cocktail of banging beats and feel-good vibes that can be the soundtrack to your summer, but if you’re looking for a bit more lyrical substance out of your hip hop then you might want to look elsewhere.
Fresh Espresso celebrates the release of Bossalona with a show at Neumos on June 8. Also on the bill are White China Gold and Slow Dance. Tickets cost $10 and can be purchased here.