By Jose Mujica
November 28, 2018
Earlier this month Charlotte hip-hop artist Erick Lottary dropped his latest EP, Look Both Ways, a project that showcases a more melodic and R&B-driven style. This is a new frontier for the up-to-now traditionalist rapper as he dips his toe into the genre-blending wave that’s gained popularity in recent years. Look Both Ways is an impressive showing of versatility for the artist, a testament to his creativity that refuses to be forced into any particular box. More well known for his bars and lyricism than his singing, Lottary sets out to make a statement with this project. Confidently demonstrating his versatility when it comes to serenading us about matters of the heart and soul, he proves he’s far from a one-note act.
The opening and title track, “Look Both Ways,” is a cautionary piece recounting the trials and tribulations Lottary has had to endure to make it to where he is. With a sage-like demeanor, he drops knowledge over a groovy electric guitar sample, sharing with us some of the lessons he’s learned during his tenure: “Stop bragging ‘bout the money cause you sound broke. Started learning from your lessons now you found hope.” Rejecting the typical materialism found within mainstream hip hop, Lottary clearly sets out to make his fans feel and think more deeply than most artists. A feat he accomplishes admirably.
The second track, “Plug Talk,” features more traditional trap production and lyricism that proves he can still hang with the mainstream. Within just the first few bars, Lottary welcomes you to the West Side, breaking out into boastful bars illustrating a life of drugs, sex, money and status. Lottary delivers these lyrics with a smirking self-consciousness, as he describes the kingpin lifestyle: “Hold on, I’m tripping. If I was still trapping, I made you a witness,” a reference to rappers who have faced the consequences of disclosing self-incriminating evidence in their songs. While the tone of the song seems to be the most out of place in context of the rest of the album, “Plug Talk” is still an enjoyable track, especially when you just want to blast some ignorant bass-heavy shit on a night out.
“Today I Got Time” sounds like a radio single in the best way possible, flipping the popular Miguel and Goldlink track “Friends.” An extremely catchy bop with a harmonizing hook that’s hard to not have stuck in your head. The track sets the tone for the rest of project introducing the themes of courtship, romance and all the typical problems therein that remain constant through the last song. If you like those sweet radio R&B love ballads, this would be a welcome addition to your playlist.
The next track, “Misunderstanding,” again revolves the romantic themes of relationships but this time focuses on the negative and more dramatic side of the equation. With a cool nonchalance, Lottary’s slick, loverboy delivery and relatable bars make it difficult not to sympathize with some of the messages in this song: “You got all of your friends putting in their two cents, they’re the ones you vent to. I’m like how the fuck you choose, get a point of view from those who never been through it?”
This follows into “Standby,” which appears as a brilliant standout track on the tape. The influences worn on his sleeve in prior tracks blend together into a sensuous, swaggerful bop that exudes a laid-back confidence. The bars are braggadocious, not in an over-the-top way, but in a nonplussed manner as if this lifestyle is nothing new. He simultaneously boasts about his constant rotation of paramours and income, while exemplifying the wariness of leeches and enablers that never run out of fake love. Lottary makes sure that if nothing else, his pen is never in question.
The last track, “Wasted,” is at once both a drastic divergence from the rest of the project. Its full-on R&B styling over a lush instrumental of strings and piano make a satisfying conclusion to the melodic tone and experimentation of the project. It seems as though the entire tape was leading up to this track as Lottary slowly transitions from straight up hip hop to more contemporary R&B rap sounds to dropping the rap almost altogether in this final track. Natalie Carr provides excellent back up vocals to complement Lottary’s singing and, as the single featured guest on the project, she’s expertly placed and used for maximum effect in this lovelorn duet.
In Look Both Ways Lottary set out to make a statement: he’s not simply a rapper or a “hip-hop” artist but a well-rounded musical artist with an impressive arsenal of techniques and sounds that he knows how to employ. A display of vocal versatility that scratches ones cathartic need for some musical amourous musings, Look Both Ways is an EP worthy of note and a great emotive, musical companion to get you through some of these cold, winter nights.
Listen to the EP Look Both Ways by Erick Lottary.