Year In Review: "You Can't Make Me" @RIKKIBLU

2017’s cup runneth over with good music, of all kinds.
From fun to enlightening. From singing to rapping.
From our hometown to yours and everywhere in between, we are dedicating the month of December to reviewing and reflecting on the music that helped make this year so important.

A few weeks before Rikku Blu released his debut album “You Can’t Make Me” (YCMM), he was kind enough to send me an early preview of the album. While I could instantly tell the album was great, it seemed best to wait and fully appreciate the album upon its official release. It was tough because the album is so good but, it was worth it. During the days leading to the release, I made sure to listen to the tracks released via Rikki Blu’s soundcloud. As they digested then when YCMM dropped, Rikki Blu’s voice sounded more and more familiar to me. But everything about the album was so original, intentional and powerful, focusing on why he was familiar fell into insignificance. 

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Sitting with YCMM is necessary. Letting Dian’s Hymn, Go Awf and Life is Good serve their purpose, in order, prepares your mind to receive the array of truths Rikki Blu tears open as you move further into YCMM. Truths of being a Black man in America, truths of being an artist, truths of being a father. 

Every unique part of his lyrical style and element of his moving content shine through within the first three tracks. By the time Bruton Bazaar softly but surely sashayed into my headphones with Infntrydamier’s vocals offering a smooth sense of peace, I was somewhere between not knowing what was coming next and not caring. Not caring simply because all signs were pointing to YCMM taking control of my life for the next 30 minutes, no matter how I felt or what I expected. Plug, 50ft and Reign each focus on their own specific purpose and as each one comes and goes it is clear their purpose was achieved. Ironically, trying to assign the purpose that I received from these tracks (or honestly any of them) to what anyone else will receive would be amiss; you’ve got to experience it. By the time Reign ends, YCMM is halfway complete and one energy that continues to echo is one of unapologetic self awareness. 

Personally, Youth has been holding strong as my favorite from YCMM. There are more reasons than I could ever explain but the cadence and lyricism Rikki Blu exhibits are sure to resonate with anyone who loves good music, period. The deeper you get into YCMM, the more apparent it is that the person who created this knows exactly who he is. Whether a chuckle left in as an adlib or a series of unrelenting bars, Rikki Blu establishes himself as himself with exuding confidence. Confidence that is never demeaning, only inspiring. 

Rikki Wonder may be the single best representation of that confidence with Rikki Blu switching back and forth between rhyme schemes and cadences without missing a beat. Now YCMM is 10 tracks in and my head almost exploded trying to figure out how we got here so quickly and what was going to happen next. Molotov happened. Molotov is almost chaotic at every second. The beat, the rapping, there is so much going on and yet there is absolutely nothing messy about it. It is amazing. Both Molotov and the following track, Lvl.2, shake you to your soul no matter what part of hip hop appeals to you the most. They also set the stage for Wolfpack; a bass heavy banger that you need to run tell all your friends about. 

YCMM gets close to the end pretty quickly and I still couldn’t put my finger on why Rikki Blu sounded so familiar. But, Diabetes. One of the more mellow tracks on the album, Diabetes is a perfect transition from YCMM’s height of energy. YCMM’s last track is also the title track, YCMM begins with a haunting guitar and chant that bring in Rikki Blu for a final hurrah and I find myself on the final track on an album that has not once allowed space for broken attention. The stark finish that YCMM creates is something like a period on the end of a rock solid statement; “I’m only who I thought I’d be”. YCMM ends abruptly after pouring so much into anyone who’s listening and you kind of get that feeling of, is it really over?

As a lover of hiphop, YCMM is everything hiphop was ever intended to be. "You Can’t Make Me". It’s a statement, a truth, a realization and manifestation of power. In all of 37 minutes, Rikki Blu lays everything at your feet and insists that everyone understand, you can’t make me. Can’t make me do or say. Can’t make me compromise. Can’t make me into anything other than who I am. Anyone listening, in that same 37 minutes, can realize and manifest the same ideas and walk away with the mindset that nobody can make you. 

On listen two or three, trying to figure out who Rikki Blu reminded me of was the furthest thing from my mind, and that’s when it hit me. Years back I heard music he did with Chattanooga based artist Tut and The House. What escaped me for nearly two weeks was clear as day now and yet really didn’t matter. Not in a bad way, it didn’t matter because what Rikki Blu created with YCMM isn’t comparable to anything before it. I couldn’t help but be impressed by how an album with such manifold sound created a space for Rikki Blu to be singularly himself. One of the crowning achievements of YCMM aside from Rikki Blu’s uncanny ability to lyrically paint a visual is how well the album flows. Seamless transitions from track to track make it seem as if you are floating through the entire album and reach the end without ever realizing it. Now do what I know you want to do and listen to the entire thing all over again. 

Get "You Can't Make Me" on iTunes

Stream below. 

Come back tomorrow and every day in December for Year in Review!