Album Review: James Otha - LEGIXN
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LEGIXN is the fourth project this year from Indianapolis artist/producer/engineer James Otha. That’s right...THIS YEAR. The guys has been putting in an extreme amount of hours and effort in 2018 to create music, build his skillset, expand his mind, put his footprint in the sand of Naptown, and develop his voice as an artist.
This project shows the crazy amount of growth Otha has accrued over the past year, which is obvious through his several releases. The cohesive sound throughout is a testament to his improved production and mixing skills. James truly knows how to create a vibe, and I do believe he has his own sound which he has been developing slowly but surely over the past 14 months. There are some tracks on LEGIXN with great songwriting, and nearly all of the beats are enjoyable to say the least. The performances are also slightly above par for Otha, which seems to come from a place of confidence and creativity.
The layering on his hooks is exactly what I want to hear. The lyrical content is often times relatable and thoughtful. At other times it’s braggadocious and brash. His rhyme schemes and writing almost feel effortless at times, but that’s not to say it’s weak or easy. He is just talented enough to make above average bars roll right off the tongue.
The sampling in “A Lucid Dream”, “Own World”, and “Time” are astounding and I love how he worked with them. Nearly all of the beats have that sampled, semi lo-fi, boom-bap (ish) sound to them, but the album doesn’t quite feel ‘samey’. This is partially because some of the tracks feel very much like an Otha track (“Own World”, “Oh No”, “Till Death”), while others show how James has grown as an artist and songwriter (“Anxious Interlude”, “Daymares”, “Free Thought”, “Worlds Away”). Otha doesn’t have many features, but Cam Matthews and Double A both delivered strong contributions on “Time” and “Fynite”, respectively.
“Time” - one of my favorite instrumentals on the album
“My Way” - possibly the best VERSES
“Anxious Interlude” - real James Otha feel and good start at songwriting
“Daymares” - wavy and lucious hook
“Till Death” - strong performance, another tight hook, also great songwriting
“Free Thought” - probably the best track in terms of style, performance, mix/production
“Worlds Away” - more good songwriting paired with a solid mix
Despite the vast improvements I’ve seen from Otha, there’s still room for growth, and I think the best is yet to come. The first track made me think the mixing would be on another level throughout this project, but the vocal mix diminished track after track. Like most artists that engineer themselves, they get pretty decent at getting their vocals to sound decent in the mix, but when they get to mixing their features...something’s just off. Such is the case on LEGIXN (Cam Matthews and Double A). Even though I think this is the best mixing Otha has done, there’s still a bit of compression that squashes both the vocals and the track as a whole. The effects are all tight, and the blending of the vocals in hooks and notable spots sounds really, really good. The vocals are definitely clear, they cut through the mix, and they aren’t lacking too much body...but they still feel like they’re squeezed into a little box at times.
On top of that, there’s still something more I desire from his delivery. Even though Otha’s flow game is solid and creative, I still feel like he could bring more energy to his voice and his style. His performance is not yet at its peak, but I think that’s good and proves there’s still room to grow. Also, if he will be performing live, the delivery he uses on this set of tracks is not going to captivate or energize an audience. Although, maybe Otha’s intentions aren’t to turn up a crowd.
There is inconsistency in quality of songwriting/production for me; some tracks are well thought-out records, while others get a couple minutes in when Otha tries to pivot with a beat “slow-down” or movie quote to add another minute to the track instead of just ending it happily or building out the song into something greater. The movie quote things are cool to have throughout the album...but I’m personally not a fan, especially if there’s not some overarching concept or story being told or expressed. Maybe there was one and it just went over my head.
I mentioned some tracks earlier that I thought had great hooks, but the “Fynite” hook didn’t seem to really fit into the beat - it felt awkward to listen to. Like, it flows when you listen, but when you try to sing along to it, it feels off in someway. I can't figure out if I think this is a good thing or bad thing.
I think this project proves that James Otha will likely be an emerging voice in the Indianapolis Hip-Hop scene going into 2019 that people should pay attention to; whether he becomes an artist that people throw on while lighting up, playing video games, or chilling at home…..or an artist that we start seeing on bigger stages with a crowd singing his hooks....or a top producer that other artists start working with more often. I’d like to see him find a way to invest in better marketing, start building a brand, and explore the lanes available to him. I also think that Otha should collaborate more, not in terms of more features or getting beats from other producers, but I mean working with a team - a co-producer, another engineer, getting feedback and songwriting help from other artists, etc. I truly think that allowing other viewpoints and loosening the grip on your own projects would help James Otha take his sound and his music to another level. Shout out to my fellow virgo.