We’ve covered some of Ali Cashius Jr’s sound on Spice on the Beat (you can find one of his most recent singles that I’ve covered here), but he’s finally dropped his complete album, Flight Club. Just by scanning through the tracklist, you can already see how each title reflects a different extension of his identity, which is really exciting. It’s beautiful to see a body of art reflect an artist, and I’m excited to dive into this!
The album begins with the song “1985,” a slow and melodic entrance into the project. The production sets the perfect tempo to set things off; not too hype and not too boring, and the background vocals are absolutely enchanting. Ali’s flow is effortless and passionate, without being too aggressive or in your face. The line, “y’all still in the same state of mind as before, I elevated my brothers like elevator doors,” is such a stand-out lyric, because as someone who has been watching Ali’s musical journey for quite some time now, this isn’t an exaggeration. His talent over the past year, as well as his collaborations, have continued to grow and strengthen, and to see an artist mature and blossom over time is truly an experience, especially when they’re self-aware enough to hold weight in that. Rather than emphasizing things like getting money or sleeping with women, he celebrates his time and effort to work on his craft, and that’s admirable. In fact, the elevator theme is something he revisits throughout the album, so keep your ears open. The imagery around the Marvel universe was imaginative and descriptive, working perfectly with the hypnotic vocals that are laced over the production. The juxtaposition of the religious diction following that was even more cleverly placed, showing just how much thought was put into the lyricism. I do think that the reiteration of “Ready Or Not” was a bit unnecessary and caused a disconnect, but I appreciate the intention behind it. I would have liked to see more of a transition from the first track into the second just because I really loved the production on it, but overall, it was a solid start to the album.
In “No Justice No Peace,” Ali utilizes a more political tone with the help of Joell Ortiz. Right away, the production is perfect for the message, using rock elements to unite the masses and rally against the corrupt authority. Ali’s flow is assertive as he tells his story, recounting personal experiences that help fuel his passion to take a stand. The use of the line “I can’t breathe” in the hook is powerful, reminding everyone of the innocent lives that we’re fighting for when talking about issues like police brutality. The hook reflects the anger that we feel and the energy that we possess when out on the streets, and Ali has captured the scene magically in this song. I like that he chose to include ICE when directing his anger, demonstrating the impact that their evil has had on his daily life while showing the fear and panic that these organizations spread among innocent people. Joell comes with nothing short of absolute heat as always, commanding the beat as he begins his verse. He illustrates how time stops in the moments of confrontation with police officers, especially when faced with the threat of their weapons, and he reflects it in his flow and the production. Ali captured the feelings of all of the protests that ensued because of murderous police officers, and I think this song was truly essential for him to showcase everything he stands for. Major props.
“Bismillah” honors Ali’s Yemeni culture. The hook uses the phrase, “Bismillah Hir Rahman Nir Rahim,” which translates to mean, ‘In the name of Allah, The Most Gracious and The Most Merciful.’ The way Ali incorporated the phrase is wonderful, and it didn’t make me overlook his ability to carry a tune better than most rappers either. The production doesn’t particularly stand out for me, although I do feel like it fits the tone and the message quite well. I just think it could have done a bit more to differentiate itself from the previous tracks because although it’s cohesive, the songs are already beginning to blend together for me. I enjoy the use of the choir-like vocals contrasted over the drum machine and how it works with the Arabic music, but I think it would have been really cool to incorporate a sample of traditional Yemeni music (unless it did; I’ll be honest, I’m not very well-versed on this. So please correct me if I’m wrong!) I also have mixed feelings on the use of audio clips in songs because I feel like a lot of the times they don’t actually do anything to contribute to the track, but using a voice like Muhammad Ali and hearing him command respect around his name worked beautifully for the overall message. I found the second verse to be more compelling than the first in terms of subject matter and imagery. By the hook towards the end, the production works with the hook a bit more, completing the song a bit more thoroughly. While it’s still a beautiful track, especially with the use of Arabic, I think there were some missed opportunities to make it stand out on the album. With that being said, it had big shoes to fill since it was placed right after “No Justice No Peace,” which was so high in energy. But like I mentioned before, I commend Ali’s ability to whole-heartedly include all aspects of his cultures and being into his music.
I have mixed feelings on the hook that begins “Broken,” but I really dig how the song begins. It’s such an interesting way to start off the beat, but unfortunately, once Ali sings the word “away” I lose interest a tad. The song definitely feels like a J Cole track, from the hook to the flow to the beat, so that’s really interesting. There’s no doubt that Ali’s flow is dope, with striking verses and painted scenes for the listener, but this song wasn’t one of my top contenders.
I was super excited to hear “Rude Boi,” because I think it was time for a change of pace. I liked the phone conversation in Spanish because it once again shows how this particular sound relates back to Ali’s culture, but I think it went on for a little too long. As soon as the beat faded in completely I was ready, and it hit me with the amount of energy that I was expecting. Even though the sound and energy were different from the rest of the tracks, the song still made sense to the project, so the cohesiveness has definitely been one of the strengths along with the album. Every song seems to serve its purpose while still working to the one before and the one after. The track was essentially what I expected it to be-a fun Reggaeton track that showcased Ali’s rapping skills, including rapping in Spanish. The production and verses are entertaining to listen to without compromising lyricism, and it’s a great track to offer something different to the album while still presenting the same Ali in another light.
I was loving the introduction to “Day 1’s”, but I’ll be honest, a lot was going on. Ali killed it and I loved seeing this new, intricate flow of his that we hadn’t experienced on the album yet. But, that rhyme scheme in addition to a really busy beat made it overwhelming and a little more difficult to enjoy. I wasn’t entirely sure where to focus my attention, because there were a lot of cool elements occurring. Unfortunately, it was all happening at once, causing a clash between the beat and the verses. I loved the idea of the song; it was the perfect amount of ‘turn-up’ to still feel like it had a place on the album, but I think it got a bit lost in translation. Regrettably, that’s disappointing because it really was the first song to show so many different dynamics between the vocals and the production. But I think maybe a simpler beat would have been a better fit. My biggest highlight was the featured verse, which was super dope and a pleasant addition to the album.
I think “Hello” is super dope. The lyricism and production both still have their respective intricacies, but the subject matter is a little bit less intense. Both have trap characteristics while offering some really cool elements that steer away from the non-traditional rap songs. And Ali’s flow on this is dope! We get to see a style just as dynamic as the one in “Day 1’s,” but this time, the production doesn’t take away from that. It works perfectly to complement his lyrics, and the whole thing is just a funky vibe. Futuristic was the perfect choice for the feature; his voice worked incredibly with the production as well as Ali’s, and although his flow was super fire as well, neither he nor Ali stole the spotlight. Instead, they were both equally on point, working perfectly to complete the song. Can we also talk about the transitions throughout the song?! From the bridge to the hook to the second verse. Amazing. I would say that this song was a stand-out for me and it exemplifies once again just how lyrically complex Ali is.
The production for “Parallel Parking” was a bit more reminiscent of the first half of the album. It was interesting listening through this track because I thought it would just be the sex song of the project, but Ali still managed to incorporate complex themes like Malcolm X and other motifs of equality. Even then, the song wasn’t outright crass (not that I mind if it is). But sometimes, it’s nice to have a track that can conjure up passion and intimacy without using the word pussy in every other sentence. I really liked the hook too. Once again, it wasn’t inappropriate or over-the-top. It was sexual, sure, but still lyrical, and the visual imagery was just so descriptive.
I love the beginning of “Leave Me Alone.” That beat paired with HK Meek’s vocals were just delicious. What a gorgeous introduction! It’s definitely a Travis Scott-type beat in the way that it uses really heavy trap beats with strings, but it starts to lose me after a while. The beginning was just so enticing, but as the song progresses, it incorporates what felt like the fundamental basics for a trap song. I loved the little singing piece about 1.5 minutes in; that picked up the song considerably for me. The lyrics became a lot more animated, and the melodies worked a lot better with the song and the beat for me. Otherwise, the rapping was getting lost. HK Meek really was the perfect feature for this song, and Ali’s ear for choosing who to utilize to accomplish a certain vision for each track is truly impressive. After listening through this song, it really did become a favorite for me. The first verse dragged a little on for me, but when looking at its contribution to the overall song, I’m not mad at the stylistic choices. This is a dope track that appeals to younger generations while still being lyrically conscious and relevant, and what better way to get people involved?
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I started “Caribbean Blues,” but I will say that a title like that got me excited to see what Ali could come up with, and as soon as it began, I knew that it was the perfect name. The strings in the production give off a Carlos Santana vibe to perfectly transport you to a private island, while at the same time reminding me of the start of BlackStar’s “Respiration.” The illusion starts to quickly fade as Ali expresses the realities of these tropical islands, describing the issues that have destroyed them throughout history. This is definitely some of the best story-telling throughout the album. It’s beautiful and tragic, and the beat works hand in hand with Ali to paint a detailed portrayal. Everything from the hook to the lyrics in Spanish plays a role, and it’s incredible to see how thought-out each small choice was in making this song reflect the Caribbean and the struggles that people endure there. The second verse absolutely left me speechless. The first was already pulling at my heartstrings, but Ali described the second woman so vividly that I felt as if I knew her, and it made her tribulations, especially when already face to face with success, that much more saddening. The way Ali also incorporates historic events is incredible; he introduced insight into the political warfare to explain what made things so dangerous while raising awareness to other issues that plagued the people like tuberculosis. It took me a second to connect the dots for the third verse when Ali personified the events in Puerto Rico through Hurricane Marta, but in doing so, he commented on how the US treated Puerto Rico, which was absolutely mind-boggling. This song ended up feeling like a track by Immortal Technique, and I mean that in the best way possible. Ali’s story-telling is next level.
I already knew “Desperados” would have just the right amount of grime to it, and as soon as the beat hit, I could tell that I was right. Ali’s flow is soooo easy and lazy that it makes the track that much more smooth with the right hint of ratchet. It’s enjoyable to hear Ali having fun on the track, creating this persona of someone who fucks hot girls and slashes faces of racist patriots. Once again, Ali does an incredible job of outlining the framework of the song to work with the song title, linking it back to both his culture and his personality.
“Tina’s Song” slows things down as the album starts to come to a close. I enjoyed the first verse, but it’s still taken me some time to piece together just exactly who Tina is and how she relates to Ali. By the time the song finished, I was still wondering the same thing. While I do think the song is beautiful, and I understand the tone that was trying to be conveyed, I had trouble understanding it. I wish we got a bit more insight as to who each person was in the song and how they related back to one another, especially because there was an audio clip at the beginning of the song. I think for a track like this, some context would do the listener good at least so that they could make the connection between the verses and the hooks and the different people being mentioned. I really loved the hook-I thought it was gorgeous-but I just couldn’t figure out what it meant or how it related back to anything.
“Flight Club” feels like a good way to cap off the album. It’s fairly 360 in terms of the production and style, as in it brings the project back to Ali’s signature stylistic choices. I love the hook. It is so fitting for Ali, from the lyrics to the flow, and it works to sum up everything that he’s put into the album. At first, I thought this song should have been placed at the beginning as an intro track, but the more that I get into it, the more that it made sense to place it at the end. Overall, this album was strong, and I’m really excited about it. Even the tracks that I wasn’t personally super fond of served a purpose to represent a side of Ali, and it was wonderful to dive into his cultures and beliefs. You can tell that a lot of time and consideration was put into making this album and it deserves its props. The production was strong but not particularly stand-out, but, as a result, it gave Ali’s profound lyricism the time to shine. If you enjoyed the album, make sure to save it on Spotify and connect with Ali below to keep up with future releases.
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Sponsored by Ali Cashius, Jr.