It was about a week ago the first time I sat down to listen to Boom Vox’s debut album Shoot The Moon. At that point, I had heard of the Boston-based hip-hop duo, but I wasn’t too familiar with the music. I put on my headphones, pressed play, and within ten seconds of the opening song, I was hooked. I wasn’t quite sure what exactly I was listening to, but I was hooked. Eighteen songs later, it was clear to me that Sam Scott and Al-J, who came together to form Boom Vox just six months ago under the Leedz Edutainment label, had created one of the most unique, experimental hip-hop albums of the year. Shoot The Moon can’t be simply defined as a hip-hop album because it’s more than that. With this project, Boom Vox combined elements of rap, R&B, pop, techno, and even some rock and dubstep, and they managed to blend it all seamlessly, all the while over top-notch production from Matty Trump and Rob Whitaker and including features from the likes of Cam Meekins, Spose, Rite Hook, Stu Cat, Mickey Factz and Dre Robinson. The result is an album with an incredible variety of sounds and one that truly keeps listeners on their toes from start to finish. The combination of Sam Scott’s smooth vocals and Al-J’s old school, calculated delivery in his rhymes makes for a such fresh change of pace, and if the duo’s debut album is any indiction of what’s to come in the future, Boom Vox will certainly be far from a hidden gem very soon. While Shoot The Moon is naturally far from flawless, it’s an extremely complete album from top to bottom, and it serves as an ideal introduction to two extraordinary talents coming together as one.
Oh… before the review goes any further, this is probably a good time to mention that Shoot The Moon is free, so before you read any further, grab a digital copy of the album RIGHT HERE.
Anyway, Shoot The Moon kicks off with the title track of the same name, and immediately we’re hit with a totally unique, electronic production sound that gives the song a futuristic feel. Al-J tears into his opening verse with ferocity and establishes his flow over a track that had me thinking Black Star right off the bat. Throughout the album, Al-J lays down consistently intelligent, well-articulated and clear rhymes, and his lyrical content combining social commentary with relatable material is undoubtedly one of the greatest strengths of Boom Vox’s debut project.
Though “Shoot The Moon” isn’t one of the better examples, for the most part the album’s hooks are outstanding. Sam Scott, a Twin Cities native, is able deliver in so many different ways, and somehow he manages to provide catchy choruses on the majority of the tracks while not having one sound anything like another. “Desire” is one of my favorite tracks on the album, and it’s one of the cuts in which Scott gets his well-deserved shine. After Al-J spits the first verse, Scott sings the hook and flows into the bridge with, “it takes courage to rise up and meet the sun, if we’re together we always will get it done, don’t stop catch your rest, never let it fold, can’t let it hold you down..” One of the major themes throughout Shoot The Moon revolves around facing adversity with a positive outlook, and “Desire” exemplifies that message.
Another key strength of Boom Vox’s debut album is its unpredictability. Early on we get two songs back to back – “Sunshine” and “Day By Day” – that have very uptempo, uplifting, sing-along type pop vibes to them. Just when a rhythm and consistency starts to develop, an intense track like “Cut The Lights Out” hits just minutes later, and the dubstep-influenced beat jolts the listener to life. Then darker, more serious songs like “Dark Heart” and “For Better Or Worse” really show the album’s versatility in both mood and delivery. All the tracks work in their own way, and the juxtaposition of such beautifully clashing sounds makes for a captivating album.
At certain points throughout Shoot The Moon, listeners might begin to ask themselves (as I did on my first listen), “What exactly am I listening to? Is this a rap album? A pop album?” At some particular moment, and it happens all of the sudden, you realize it just doesn’t matter. The beauty and effectiveness of this album is its boldness in crossing genre lines and writing its own rules. Boom Vox created an album, in Shoot The Moon, that can really be played anywhere, any time of day, in any situation and in any state of mind. The features, as mentioned earlier, include Cam Meekins, Spose, Rite Hook, Stu Cat, Mickey Factz, and Dre Robinson, and they are strewn throughout in a way that engages the listener and provides a breath of fresh air to an already fresh project.
Like any debut album, some of the minor weaknesses of Shoot The Moon stem from the fact that Sam Scott and Al-J are still acclimating themselves to each others’ styles and abilities. The two are clearly talented individuals who bring their own skill sets to the table, and while throughout the majority of the album the blending of the styles feels effortless, at other times, such as on “Fame” and “Another One Down,” it feels a bit awkward. Additionally, Al-J is at his strongest when he mixes up his flow and delivery, like on “The Light.” While the Boston-bred rapper’s clarity and overall performance from beginning to end is above average, there are periods where his pacing becomes slightly bland in its repetitiveness. On “The Light,” Al-J’s delivery is more low-key and patient, and the result is something special. I have no doubt in his ability to mix it up and create a different sound, as he also did on “Catch Me If You Can,” but without a change in delivery it can be difficult to recall one verse from another when looking back on the album as a whole.
Overall, Shoot The Moon is a very impressive debut album from a super-talented singing/rapping duo. Boom Vox is already making waves in Boston, and with the consistency they’re already providing, it won’t be long before their music spreads far beyond Beantown. The chemistry between Sam Scott and Al-J can only increase, and as they continue to experiment with their sound and gel as a true duo, there can be nothing but good things to come.
Favorite Tracks: Desire, Cut The Lights Out, Crave The Change, The Light
Be sure to “like” Boom Vox and Leedz Edutainment on Facebook and follow on Twitter below, and don’t forget to download the album for free. Also, check out a video clip from Boom Vox’s recent set at the Middle East Downstairs in Cambridge, MA as well as the first official video off Shoot The Moon for “Day By Day” at the bottom of the page.