If Moreno Valley rapper Pheo lived in L.A., he’d have been scooped up by a scouting agent long ago.
That’s why, despite a deep desire to see him perform as (or more) often than lots of local artists, we’re glad the Inland Empire still has its hold on him.
Two years ago saw the release of Pheo’s first mixtape, Word to Your Blogger, and found him performing with the irrepressible Speak! The pairing proved to be combustible, Speak!’s spastic, uncensored torrent of wildly inventive raps calmed by Pheo’s cool charisma.
His latest outing, the mostly playful Wriot!, is a confident and thematically focused record, and succeeds even as comparisons to his fellow women-and-weed-rejoicing contemporaries are inevitable.
The havoc wreaked by Pheo’s Wriot! will happen behind closed (bedroom) doors, and be met with as much resistance as a sapling exerts in a storm. The opening track, “Wriot!,” is a bit of a stumble, though. It feels uneasy and awkward when considered as part of the whole; “Sheets,” which is produced by Wiz Khalifa’s frequent collaborator Cardo, is a more comfortable start to this smooth affair.
Most of the tracks, in fact, glisten with the kind of shimmery production expected from a often dreamy, weed-induced trip through this twenty-first-century romance. In “Last Night Morning,” J Bizness manages to turn Prince even sexier by softening “If I Was Your Girlfriend’s” bass line. Even the hydraulic-driven beat of “Angelina’s Beamer,” produced by Chemist Productions, is laced with a pleasantly tinny synth.
Pheo slips through the whole record as easily as he avoids a girl’s grasp; an unforced charm overrides the cockiness of his lyrics and proves irresistible. His structure remains tight even as he toys with his voice, dropping consonants, stretching vowels, or two-stepping through a verse–sometimes all in one song.
A rapper can build a career on weed or sex alone, but now that Pheo’s had his fun, it’ll be interesting to watch in which direction he heads. Let’s just hope it’s not towards Hollywood—yet.
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