Critch first broke in 2017 the way most artists break in 2017: viral singles and infectious flows. The difference between a one-off and Jay Critch? He kept landing hit after hit, each with an indescribable New York energy at its root. With a bevy of tracks to point to, it was the Harry Fraud-produced anthem “Thousand Ways” that cemented Critch as New York’s next rising star.
All of this would suggest Jay Critch has since stowed away to pen the next great New York debut rap album. Well, after amassing millions of streams on his singles, Jay Critch is releasing his first full body of work, "Hood Favorite". Just one note: it’s a "mixtape." Sounding polished, cohesive, and expensive, we have to imagine "Hood Favorite" hasn’t been elevated to album status out of general trepidation. Perhaps Critch and Interscope would rather test the waters before taking the debut-album-plunge. Semantics aside, "Hood Favorite" remains Critch’s formal introduction to commercial hip-hop, and for the most part, he introduces himself well.
Jay Critch opens his project on a juiced up high. Let us take a brief moment to commend him for not simply repackaging his singles and calling it a day. Jay Critch has chosen to forge on anew, as he should.
All of Crtich’s on-camera appearance creates "Smutty,” where the young man sounds like the future of the city over some God-given woodwinds. Jay Critch knows his strengths and knows how to deliver them. His catching flow, built on the patter and droll of his cadence, instantly holds our ear. Not even a full minute into the tape and we have to wonder: Why isn’t this an album? Critch is well pronounced and rapping with full flavor, leading with his slang and pulling us in with the exclusivity of the moment he’s cultivating. The initial tone of "Hood Favorite" is one of trendsetting, not coattail riding.
Yet, the mixtape format quickly makes itself apparent as we deal with Critch’s artistic growing pains. The Auto-Tune singing on “Way It Is” goes over rough and out of character. The track is a sore misstep as it obscures Critch’s distinct vocal tone, which is the cornerstone of his charisma and appeal. “Brown Hair” falls into the same trap. The track sounds less like what makes Jay Critch an exciting top prospect, and more like the manifestation of Fat Joe’s fears for the city as a trend-chasing monolith. Finally, though, on “Peso,” Critch gets his Auto-Tune use right, pitching down his voice and bringing the same spirited flow we fell in love with. Even the come-up bars about ramen noodles and slightly melodic lilt go off here where it fell flat on previous attempts.
Dressed in window tints, foreigns, cash talk, popped bottles, and drift marks, Hood Favorite is a predominately celebratory and swanky, as only Jay Critch could accomplish, affair. Yet, it is not without texture and trial. “Quicker” is a moment wherein Critch abandons his braggadocious tone for something a bit more somber and touching, promising to never change and scowling at the fake. His affect presents a newfound refinement and depth. Though, a majority of the content fails to fully reflect the vocal and mood shifts. Instead, we are left with a plush track that flirts with the downtrodden, executed by a young man who does not yet know how to fully unpack his emotions. Perhaps his emotions will make the debut album.
"Ego" is the perfect lead single. Proof Critch can make an earworm from verse to hook, “Ego” first planted the seed that Jay Critch was our hood favorite, and in the context of the tape, that flower blooms. The call to his slang on “Smutty” is a nice touch, too. The visual for "Ego" has arrived.
Source: DJ Booth