The North Carolina rapper Stranger Day released his free album Graves on September 30th of this year. To be honest, before going into this review I am going to say that I have never heard of this guy until the opportunity for the review came up. I went into Graves completely blind so it naturally took multiple listens for me to get acclimated to Stranger Day’s delivery and content.
This album opens up with the single “Born Bad”: a fitting opener that gives the listener an idea of who Stranger Day is and what topics might be covered throughout the album. The beat builds upon a sung intro sampled from the film Natural Born Killers that is chopped up throughout and later becomes the hook.
The production on this album is almost industrial with harsh melodies on top of strong kicks and snares. Sounding like a mix between Nine Inch Nails and El-P, with a little bit of early Rob Zombie mixed in, they are paired well with Stranger Day’s message. One of the best examples of how dynamic the beats can be is the melodic but heavy third track “Razor Blades (feat. Ally Hoffmann)”. The distorted bass line sits underneath some spastic drums that build into a great hook.
Some of the strongest tracks on this tape are “Raw for Profit” and “Please Tell ‘em” which are two of my favorites. Stranger Day has a great delivery on “Raw for Profit” riding the brooding beat perfectly. The hook is catchy and the scratches added in are nice little additions to the instrumental. “Please Tell ‘em” is so southern and heavy that it feels like it should be in a pick-up truck commercial. The guitar riff that makes up a good portion of the beat is bluesy and is complimented well by Stranger Day spitting very laid back verses with a great breakdown between the verse and hook.
There are a few tracks on here I had a problem with but it wasn’t anything that took away from the project. “Sea Full of Lions” was a minute too long with the ending being so repetitive that it forces me to just skip to the next song before it’s over. The song “Trade Standoff (feat. Terrence Richard)” has some great percussion but the only thing I would change about the track is the song structure; the transition between the verses and hooks is a bit awkward sounding.
Stranger Day isn’t exactly a spitter but that doesn’t take away from his rapping ability at all. There are a few cringe-worthy lyrics like “my free time don’t pay the bills, my free time I eat three meals” … I mean yeah aren’t you supposed to eat three meals, unless he means he is balling so hard he eats three meals at one time which is just very unhealthy. Some of the flows are pretty simplistic and get somewhat repetitive but overall he delivers his message of ‘Southern survival’ pretty well.
Graves isn’t a bad project at all. I think it is a well-produced and layered piece of work that he probably made for him and friends to drink whiskey to and party in someone’s backyard. He accomplishes that well while delivering some dark messages over some heavy beats. Stranger Day is a really interesting MC in his own lane, with a great ear for beats that needs to polish his rapping and songwriting ability a little more and really just keep making some good industrial southern rap.