Last year, rapper and producer Leland Philpot released his mixtape CounterTrap. This year, I’m happy to make the project my first review of the decade.
Before we dive in, I want to give the artist a shoutout for putting his lyrics on Genius. #ArtistTip: making your lyrics easily available makes it way easier for your audience to engage with your music (especially if they’re writing a review lol). OK, now on with the review.
Back Up in the Kitchen
“I teach you to get it, they teach you to lose it!”
Conceptually, “Back Up in the Kitchen” is the perfect first track on an album. More than just an intro track, yet still a fantastic intro track. Philpot’s production is simple yet engaging, with some exciting string movement from the final chorus through the remainder of the song. I find myself nodding along even as I write this.
Full disclaimer: this is my very first experience with Leland Philpot’s music. “Back Up in the Kitchen” is a strong first impression.
“If you hear this where you at?”
“CounterTrap” really captures the overall feel and tone of the mixtape, as a title track should. Philpot’s production continues to be engaging, although the video game-esque feel of this track does feel just a tiny bit grating by the time the song reaches an end.
The emcee really brings the energy with this one. There’s a section in the first verse where every line starts with a “whoa” adlib that I would love to see live. The verses are really strong, but the hook feels less engaging – almost obligatory.
Still (Tryna Change the World From Da Crib)
I can’t lie: when “Still” first started my first thought was that it felt messy, both the production and the lyrics. But as the song progressed, I liked the song more and more and I ended up thinking that it’s a pretty solid song. The second verse especially is one of the stronger ones on the album. The instrumental is also unique among those on the album, and definitely one to vibe to.
Dat Boi Is Too Deep
Leland Philpot’s hard-hitting production feels like it needs to be played loud! That statement is definitely true for “Dat Boi Is Too Deep.” The pre-hook and hook of the song work together for a simple vibe. However, I found the lyricism of the verses to be below the bar, and even a little hard to follow at times. Being able to read the lyrics on Geniuswas helpful but, without that, I might have been lost. This is one of the weaker songs on the project.
God on Your Side (Skit)
“And that’s when I said, ‘them is my cheese curds bro!’”
Solid skit that leads right into “God on My Side!”
God on My Side
“Hated sin so I ain’t going back / Using mind to escape the fear / Now when I pray I’m on attack.”
Philpot lets his listener into his personal life a bit with the testimony-infused “God on My Side.” The track consists of a long verse and a hook to finish out the song, and I love it. The upbeat instrumental compliments the content of the lyrics perfectly. The artist even shows off his pipes and sings at the end, which, once again, fits the vibe perfectly. This is definitely one of my favorites.
“It’s the rhythm: I know Jesus with us always”
“Rhythm” comes at us with consistent lyricism and ear-catching cadences. My one complaint is that, while the production is good, it doesn’t vary hardly at all throughout the song. This makes “Rhythm” a very good but still potentially forgettable track. I personally place a lot of emphasis on lyricism though, so it’s a great song in my book.
“Dumb Hook” is another one that’s a little bit difficult to really catch the lyrics. That said, Philpot absolutely goes off on this track with some impressive rapid-fire bars. I love the cheekiness of the so-called “dumb hook.” (I’m not going to quote it here, I’ll let you go have that experience for yourself.)
A Prayer from the Righteous
“A Prayer from the Righteous” is another interlude, this time a series of earnest and vulnerable prayers (as the name may imply). Incidentally, the underlying instrumental is fantastic. If it was available as an instrumental version, I would totally put it on my study playlist.
“Breathe life to the carrion / They call me the clarion.”
“The Clarion” is one of the best put together songs on CounterTrap. The concept, lyrics, and beat are all on point. The production features piano samples, sweeping strings, and synth arpeggios that work together beautifully.
Dance in the Light
CounterTrap wraps up on an appropriate celebratory note. “Dance in the Light” affirms Philpot’s desire to reject worldly things in favor of what’s godly – but that doesn’t preclude opportunities to still have fun. I found this song to be a fitting and satisfactory ending to the mixtape.
On the whole, I found CounterTrap to be a consistently decent and often very good musical experience. Even the songs I didn’t like as much had me moving at least a little. In both lyrics and production, there were weak points, but there were also plenty of moments where Leland Philpot’s musical abilities shone brightly. The project is definitely worth a listen, and with some variety in the songs’ style, most are sure to find something they like.
My favorite tracks:
1. God on my Side
2. The Clarion
Check out CounterTrap below and hit the comments! Do you agree with Darius’ top picks? What tracks stood out to you?