The title of OnCue’s album, Angry Young Man, is such an accurate descriptor of the project that it may almost be too obvious of a title. The 25-year-old rapper from Connecticut is filled to the brim with angst throughout his twelve-track record. The Just Blaze protégé touches on deep subjects from both his and other perspectives. Even the most radio-friendly songs here are laced with deeper meaning of OnCue’s struggles. As soon as OnCue finishes the first verse about his father on the title-track opener, the listener knows this is going to be a heavy hour of music.
Oftentimes a disillusioned project like Angry Young Man can be off-putting, coming off as more whiny than anything. Yet OnCue adeptly manages to avoid this problem. His delivery, when both rapping and singing, never comes off remotely whiny. This is the voice of a young, hungry rapper, and OnCue’s every word rings with emotion.
The record also tip-toes the line of overdone familiarity, as the prominent concepts of overcoming a rough upbringing and father issues have been done to death in hip-hop. He dodges clichéd reiterations by addressing the same subjects from different perspectives. His father’s abuse and alcoholism is a main concept through much of the album. He addresses it in a fairly straightforward manner on some tracks, such as “Angry Young Man,” but later plays with the theme and puts it through other lenses.
The standout, “So Much Love,” seems like a standard drugs-and-booze party anthem at first glance, but on closer inspection OnCue uses double entendres to also address his troubled upbringing. And even after many harsh words for his father, he addresses his love and forgiveness (though still stating he doesn’t want to fall into the same sins as his dad) on “A Rolling Stone.” The subject matter of struggling through abuse is sometimes incredibly reminiscent of The Mountain Goats’ 2005 folk masterpiece The Sunset Tree, even if it belongs to an entirely different genre.
The subject matter of the record is exceptionally heavy, and the production alleviates some of the troubling material with a very polished sound. Angry Young Man boasts very clean production, and it’s hard to believe that a free, independent release like this can sound this radio-ready. A large amount of credit is due to Just Blaze, who oversaw the making of the record and provided production on half of its tracks; Blaze brings his experience from over a decade of hit-making, and his influence is seen even on the tracks he’s not credited for. The drums knock, and the strings and synth sound phenomenal.
Angry Young Man is by no means perfect. OnCue is spot-on through much of the album’s runtime, but he struggles at points. “Roleplay” is a brief foray into a more R&B-influenced sound, and Cuey’s more traditional hip hop sound from earlier is sorely missed. It’s respectable when a rapper releases an album with no outside features in 2014, but OnCue’s voice isn’t distinctive enough to hold a listener for a full 55 minutes. At least not at this point. OnCue has progressed incredibly from his 2011 mixtape Can’t Wait, and still shows signs that he can really improve. With a heavy-hitter like Just Blaze in his camp, it’s easy to see him making a big name for himself after an already-strong start to his career.
3.5 out of 5
You can download Angry Young Man here.