The proud Harlem-native puts on for his city with this classic New York hip-hop EP.
For Vado, Sinatra represents much more than just another one of the several tapes he has dropped over the past few years. The smooth flowing Harlem representer is in the midst of a crucial part of his rap career. The Dipset affiliate went from NYC --> MIA to link up with DJ Khaled and in 2013 he signed with Khaled's We the Best label. He dropped the fourth installment of his Slime Flu series this past August, but for Vado, and in comparison to Vado's previous releases, Slime Flu 4 was just "alright" - far short of spectacular. So when his highly anticipated Sinatra dropped on Monday, hip-hop heads were eager to see if Vado could get over the hump and make a major statement.
And boy did he do just that. Using only eight songs, Vado crafted the mixtape flawlessly, bringing together an ideal mix of features - Rick Ross, Ace Hood, French Montanta - and solo tracks on which he not only holds his own, but issues lyrical destruction over ill beats. The production on the tape is unmistakably and consistently brilliant. Big-name producers including SAP, Cool & Dre, Scott Storch, and Heatmakers drop beat after beat of pure devastation on which Vado and his featured guests take full advantage of.
The tape begins with the SAP-produced track "Intro". The head-nod inducing beat gives listeners a taste of what's coming for the next half hour as Vado's flow is right on point. The track's title is analogous to the lyrical content, and further, Vado's life and hip-hop career as a whole. "Intro" is literally that - an introduction to Vado the artist. He touches on his past, the grind, the doubters, and his current label situation, rapping "New deal, couple racks on the M6. Finally got the monkey off my back on some French shit." It's hard to imagine anyone not committing to listening to the rest of the project with such a solid, fluid opening track.
"Vado" stands for "Violence and Drugs Only", and throughout the tape Vado indirectly tells you how he got his name by offering crude details into his Harlem past. Track two, the Cool & Dre-produced "Week Ago" epitomizes the precision of the rapper's name as Vado tells of the life of a hustler and the constant danger that comes with selling drugs. On the second of his three verses, he flows "New husta some of them too was cool hustlas. Crew of hustlas what niggas becoming. Try to be great before niggas be gunnin'". The harsh realities of street life are presented in a way that makes it impossible to lose focus of the lyrics and combined with Dre's nice vocals on the hook, "Week Ago" is just sick.
The third track "Look Me In My Eyes" is the staple of this tape. Scott Storch, the brains behind "Lean Back" and countless other bangers, absolutely murdered this beat. Storch uses some piano keys to create a catchy beat that is among some of the most impressive production I've listened to of late. Vado and Rozay do plenty of flossin' in their verses and with French Montana on the hook, the song is a certain banger. French's "Look me in the eyes, I'mma keep it 100. I see you fuckbois coming" is one of those hooks you'll be singing all day.
Four of the tape's final five songs are featureless and Vado proves that he can do much more than simply "hold his own". He makes use of the popular social-media phrases "Bitches be like..." and "Niggas be like..." on "Be Like". This track isn't a standout on the tape, but is nonetheless a good song with fire production from Dolla Bill Kidz. You can hear the Dipset influence on the whole tape, specifically from that of Cam'ron. At times I felt like some of these these tracks would've fit nice on a classic Dipset album as the similarities between Vado, Cam, Juelz, and other Diplomat associates are striking.
"2 Fingers" featuring Ace Hood and Kevin Cossom is the fifth track and again the production is phenomenal (Street Runner & DJ Khaled). The upbeat feel of the song makes for an inspiring track. Vado, Ace Hood, and Cossom - on the hook - all use this track as an outlet to detail what they have been through, where they are today, and how far they have come. Cossum induces a "goosebumps" feeling as he sings "Two fingers in the air for the ones before. Middle finger in the air for the ones that hate."
Vado gave us "Pimpin" the day before he dropped the whole tape. Over a sample of Jay-Z & UGK's classic "Big Pimpin'", Vado slows his flow down to go in on the beat. As one would expect, "Pimpin" covers stuntin', flossin', and some good ole' fashioned pimpin'. He reminds us that he will steal yo' girl using any means necessary, and his watches, clothes, and whips probably won't hurt his cause.
On the penultimate track "I Need", Heatmakers sample Maverick Sabre's song of the same name. While the latter of the two sings about his need for sunshine and angels, Vado raps his wide range of wishes in life: hit records, a crib for his mom, his son's face when he is proud of his dad, among others. Vado doesn't spill his heart out on this track, rather he just keeps it real. Everybody wants things in life and even those who seem to have it all feel far from perfect. Vado is no exception and on "I Need" he shows that he is just like us.
He ends the tape with a bang. A major, major bang. He spits just one verse on the Butter Beats-produced "Outro", but it is one of the hottest on the project in all aspects of hip-hop.
"It's all motive. Watch every dude that you're close with, or point blank range get a close hit. Pull off unnoticed. No trace, a cold case."
The final song embodies the heart found throughout the entire tape. The lyricism on all eight tracks is consistently impressive. Vado has always boasted a classic New York flow and it is no surprise that he shows off his rapping abilities on a project that could elevate him to the upper echelon of hip-hop artists. The NY, Dipset influences are evident but on Sinatra Vado went a step above. We have seen loads of talent from him in the past, but the Dipset affiliate has always seemed to be considered - well, that. A Dipset associate. Now he is signed to We the Best, a move that certainly opened the eyes of the hip-hop industry. This mixtape provided Vado a major chance to prove himself, and he did more than that. He took great strides with this project. No longer can hip-hop fans refer to him as just some Dipset affiliate. No way. He's way, way more than that. He's Vado.
Stream and download Sinatra below: