There is another strong up-and-comer in our midst who deserves some time to shine. Miami native and L.A.-transplanted rhymer Sylvan LaCue, formerly QuESt, is in renewed spirits, having departed from Visionary Music Group to form WiseUp & Co., through which he released his debut studio album, Far From Familiar, on April 8. Sylvan’s already got a handful of mixtapes in his bag, and now he’s finally made the leap into an LP, opening up dams of feelings and bottled up concerns with mood-mixed productions – sometimes smooth, other times hard and creatively industrial – from WiseUp producer Linzi Jai, Fortune, Wishlade and Jake Howard, who are quite creative for the most part, though their reliance on drills, ticks and shifting bass conforms with this era. The album’s very honest and innocent though. It’s got no bling, no off-the-hook extravagant partying or gang activity (a sure plus for many), but in being influenced by a few of the most popular, reflectively pensive rappers in these days and times, it fits in with the current trend of pouring out inner personal sentiments common in the modern zeitgeist of hip-hop today.
It’s only deeper into Far From Familiar that LaCue becomes greatly drippy in an emotional sense; the beginning is rampant with charged, charging force. The album really is all about Sylvan being himself, as for example he blocks out the bad and does what’s right for himself in the opening “Loner,” speaking with strong enunciation over its commanding beat of firm African sounds. His train of thought onward is to not be misled, criticizing the faceless party culture, resisting the evil spirits around him and establishing himself as someone that should have some degree of influence in the game. Listeners get the sense that Sylvan is discouraged, isolated, even alienated one might say, but it’s all a part of his wildly fluctuating emotions, and when this road passes the ups and downs of love and sex as it does in “Caravan 04” and “Lisa Bonet,” man can it get bumpy!
Near the end, it’s easy to see what Sylvan LaCue is all about as an artist on this project. Singing with grace, sometimes in an echoey, auto-tuned Kanye-like fashion or rapping with tireless endurance and unique well-crafted rhymes, he is absolutely nothing short of impressive with his vocals. The only colossal criticism that could be leveled on Far From Familiar, and it’s one that’s very much dependent on personal taste and preference, is that it lets itself be the subject and victim of torturous mental leanings and rickety contemplations – the plagues of the soul, or emotions simply put. Sylvan deals with these like issues all the way up to the very end, and though he details some of his own life-specifics like his move back to Miami from the West, his strained relationships and his draining work schedule as an artist, he presents them almost as if he’s an exempt case to study, more special and more important than some other causes to be pursued for the greater good of the world. Far From Familiar is definitely no less than good, but it would help LaCue to rap and sing on more topics that address all of us, not just himself. If he doesn’t, it’s likely he’ll continue to only make more portraits of the one Sylvan LaCue: tortured soul, starving artist, emotional racquetball.