Novel - Suspended Animation

Posted 7 years ago
Tags: Novel,

With all the flashing lights and constant TMZ surveillance it’s become hard to see what...

Suspended Animation Album Review

With all the flashing lights and constant TMZ surveillance it’s become hard to see what really matters. With all the numbing rap rich quick schemes and mindless swaggering it’s become hard to feel what really matters. With songs reduced to ringtones and a monopoly of unoriginality dominating the airwaves, it’s become hard to hear what really matters. It’s enough to make you forget why you started listening to music in the first place; to feel something. Good music make you feel: joyous, angry, lonely, horny, as long as it makes you feel something, it’s good music. It really is just that simple.

Novel’s music is good music. A gifted songwriter who’s penned tunes for everyone from Talib Kweli to Kelis to Lauryn Hill – more on that later – it’s hard not to feel Novel’s brand of richly textured and organic R&B. Unfortunately, the label bosses are more interested in having Novel make money than music, prompting the Los Angeles native to strike out on his own. The downside of his newfound independence is the continued delay of his debut album The Audiobiography, but the upside is the release of the mixalbum (more than a mixtape, less than an album, it’s a mixalbum) Suspended Animation, a title that hints not only at the music industry at large but his place in it. After granting Suspended Animation constant rotation status for two days now, I have to believe this is one Novel that will have a happy ending. That was a terrible pun, I apologize.

I’m far from the first person to compare Novel to Lauryn Hill, and it’s easy to see why. Like Lauryn he seems equally comfortable rapping, singing and songwriting, and does all three with an undeniable soul. The quasi-Hill status is most evident on Sky Might Fall, a song of hope with dark undertones that Novel fills with his engaging vocals, and Her, an acoustically oriented track that Novel lets slowly drip out of the speakers. In fact, as long as we’re playing the “over inflated comparison” game I’ll throw in one more. At first I couldn’t figure out why I was so drawn to Good Luv. Sure the song was tight, but there was some hidden reason I couldn’t take it off repeat, and then it hit me: D’Angelo. Good Luv sounds like it could have come off D’Angelo’s Voodoo, the best R&B/soul album of my generation. The slowly pounding percussion, the hypnotizing rhythms, Novel’s plaintive falsetto, they all conjured up images of D’Angelo, and Novel may agree given the “brown sugar” reference in the first line. Am I getting carried away? Of course I am. There was only one Lauryn (and D’Angelo) and there will always only be one Lauryn, but all the things we admired in her, her integrity and talent, we can admire in Novel.

As flattering as these comparisons may be, they’re ultimately more of a curse than a blessing for an artist. Sounding like someone else isn’t the goal, establishing your own music identity is, and in that regard Novel still has a little ways to go. Just take the title track Suspended Animation, a kinetically moving piece that showcases Novel’s versatility as he deftly transitions between rapping and singing. It’s almost impossible to do both with equal skill, and while Novel’s vocal abilities are undeniably stronger than his mic skills, he comes impressively close, closer than almost any other artist out there (shut up Kanye, you can’t sing). But is this the real Novel? Or is the real Novel the man who sings Put It On, one of the more traditional and radio friendly R&B tracks on the mixalbum. Or perhaps the real Novel is the guy who brings on Joell Ortiz and Papoose for So Much More, a more straight up hip-hop cut. While Novel’s ability to travel between all these styles is certainly admirable, he needs to develop a stronger presence so we can follow him through his musical travels without getting lost, a trick it took artists like…wait for it…Lauryn Hill years to perfect.

But now I’m getting ahead of myself. While Suspended Animation feels like the work of a musical veteran, Novel hasn’t even released his debut solo album yet. Suspended Animation will rightfully raise expectations sky high, and while some artists crumple under that pressure, something tells me that Novel is up to the task. The world needs more artists that make us feel. The world needs more Novels.

DJBooth Rating - 4 Spins

Written by
Posted 7 years ago
Get The PLUG app by DJBooth and get the best hip-hop writing and news delivered daily.

Sample Text - Sample Link

More from Novel

Featured Video

Hip Hop News

You Don’t Have to Listen To Lil Yachty to Like Lil Yachty

How I learned to stop worrying and hope Lil Yachty wins, even if I still don't like his music. Read More
Posted about 37 minutes ago by Yoh

Rich Chigga: I Only Say Nigga When I’m Jamming to Rap Music

We can add Rich Chigga to the growing list of people that need to get out of "hip-hop" immediately. Read More
Posted one hour ago by Nathan S.

Kweku Collins, The Artist #A3CTopProspects

Our A3C Top Prospects series rolls on with a Chicago outsider determined to invite the world into his music. Read More
Posted about 2 hours ago by Nathan S.

Chance the Rapper, Big Sean & Mike Will Upset Over Recent Music Leaks

There really are people who think they deserve to listen to leaked music. Those people are the worst. Read More
Posted 2 hours ago by Nathan S.

Gucci Mane Becomes Rap’s Role Model for Sobriety: “I Was a Drug Addict, I Was Numb”

Gucci Mane's unlikely metamorphosis from white boy wasted to a role model for sober and healthy living. Read More
Posted 4 hours ago by William E. Ketchum III

Kevin Gates is The Most Popular Streaming Artist in the South

The only people challenging Drake for national streaming dominance are Eminem and...Kevin Gates? Read More
Posted 6 hours ago by William E. Ketchum III




Discover the best new songs, videos, and albums added to the Booth.