Emerging from the city of Milwaukee, 21-year old rapper El-Shareef gives our ears a smooth listen with the mixtape titled Retrospective 2: Freeworld. Although it’s known that the music scene in Milwaukee is quieter in comparison to other major cities, El-Shareef is still making noise. And while his music may be a fresh listen to your ears, the young artist is hardly a rookie. Involved with music since the age of 8, rapping and music as a whole is second nature to the artist.
The mixtape combines classic sounds with a fresh spin. El-Shareef’s rhymes on the mixtape features other emerging artists: J.K The Reaper, Yo-Dot, and Klassik. He says his go to producer is Derelle Rideout who also comes from Milwaukee. The mixtape is mixed/mastered by Charles “Mammyth” Forsberg.
What I primarily love about the project is it’s versatility. Each track brings a unique sound while still remaining cohesive to the project. I gravitated toward El-Shareef’s music after hearing his seemingly effortless flows. The project, which seems to hold the common theme of him expressing worries and struggles, stays genuine throughout.
The mixtape manages to capture sounds from the past while staying updated with current sounds. This is very apparent in the third track titled “Everything” which features complimenting vocals from Klassik. The flute and jazz influence keeps the track smooth while adding a flare with claps. This track is a personal favorite on the mixtape. Another track that showcases this style is “Riches” which features a surge of brass instruments and 808s.
One track that stands out to me is the fourth one titled “Untitled Nonsense”. Significantly more relaxed than any others, it showcases E.L’s ability to rap over any type of instrumental. The track is reminiscent of the latter half of Kendrick Lamar’s song “Sing About me/I’m Dying Of Thirst”. The song brings in vibes of West Coast rap which helps hold the versatility and keeps the project from veering off to far in one direction.
The song that I think is perhaps the strongest, also happens to be the opening track. Titled “Breakbread”, the instrumental, flow, and content of the song sets the tone for the mixtape tastefully. The hook foreshadows the vulnerability of El-Shareef’s thoughts that will appear on the rest of the mixtape.
While it is clear that I enjoyed the project, there are a couple dissenting opinions I have. Some of the hooks on tracks are a bit repetitive for my taste. I believe the placements of tracks could’ve been altered to make the mixtape more fluid. In addition, the delivery on some tracks could use improvement. Comparing from start to finish, the project starts out stronger for my ears.
Overall, none of the aforementioned points take away drastically from the project as a whole. I enjoy the production greatly which compliments El-Shareef’s versatile style. His sounds remind me of newly signed and talented TDE artist, Isaiah Rashad, who released Cilvia Demo earlier this year in January. HIs rapping style is more lenient toward a simplistic one which may be unappealing to music listeners who only value technical skills from a rapper. His comfort with the music and ability to vibe with a track is a strong suit. I’d recommend Retrospective 2: Freeworld to anyone who has ears open for an artist delivering smooth sounds.