An Intro To CJ Fly
CJ Fly is a 26 year old rapper from Brooklyn, New York, who is best known for his work with his Pro Era label, as well as his work as part of the mega group Beast Coast. CJ began rapping in 7th grade, but it wasn’t until he met fellow rappers Joey Bada$$, Powers Pleasant & Capital Steez that he really began to take things more seriously and pursue a career in hiphop. The 4 of them met at the Edward R. Munrow High School for Communication Arts, where the quartet would spend their time freestyling in the auditorium. This led to the group forming a bond, and eventually forming the Pro Era record label/collective in 2011.
In 2012 most of CJ’s work was as part of Pro Era, featuring heavily on both their debut mixtape ‘The Secc$ Tape’ and the follow up, ‘PEEP: The Aprocolypse’. 2012 also saw him feature on a couple of songs from fellow Pro Era member Joey Bada$$’s debut mixtape 1999. CJ spent the first half of 2013 touring; firstly as part of Beast Coast with the rest of Pro Era, Flatbush Zombies, and The Underachievers, and then afterwards with A$AP Rocky & and roster of others as part of the ‘Under The Influence’ tour. In October of 2013 he released his debut mixtape ‘Thee Way Eye See It’, building a bit of buzz for himself as a solo artist and garnering critical acclaim. 2014 saw the release of 2 more Pro Era mixtapes, the first being a follow up to their debut ‘Secc$ Tape’, and the second being titled ‘The Shift’. After a couple of quiet years, CJ Fly released his debut album ‘Flytrap’ in December of 2016, once again attempting to shine the spotlight on himself as a solo rapper. Since 2016 CJ has been fairly quiet, releasing a couple of singles and music videos, as well as the odd feature. His most notable work in the past 4 years was part of the group Beast Coast, which contains CJ and released their first album in the middle of 2019.
And that brings us to the present day! On March 6th 2020 CJ Fly released his album ‘RUDEBWOY’, with 13 tracks entirely produced by Statik Selektah, and features from Haile Supreme, OSHUN, Conway The Machine, Lexipaz, & the entirety of Pro Era. Below I’m going to review the album in 2 parts; first will be my track by track notes on each track as I listened through, and following that will be my thoughts on the album as a whole. I’ll include links to stream the album as well as a couple discussion questions at the end. Enjoy!
Track By Track Review
1. GOIN THRU (ft. T’nah) – The Laid back piano and saxophone melodies give this track a real old school vibe. I’m not a big fan of the CJ singing but enjoy when T’nah comes in, the harmonies sound real nice. Some solid rhymes from CJ, decent flows too, but the delivery is a bit one dimensional for the most part. Flows get a bit boring after a while too, don’t change up much. Hook overall is quite enjoyable. T’nah sounds amazing, she provides some super pleasant melodies, has a beautiful voice, sounds great over the saxophone-led instrumental. Song drags on, could’ve been 40-50 seconds shorter. Average song
2. RUDEBWOY (ft. Joey Bada$$) – Heard this when it dropped a couple months ago and have never really been a fan. Has another great laid back old-school beat, and the flows are solid throughout, but nothing too memorable. Good is average, the delivery from CJ isn’t too special, and Joey’s verse is good but not great. Just an average song overall.
3. BARRELL (ft. Haile Supreme) – Another chill beat, more brass instrumentation and laid back drum beat. More basic delivery from CJ, and flows change up a bit but nothing is too exciting. Enjoy the Jamaican twist on the hook, but isn’t too catchy and does nothing too great. Haile’s singing is a nice touch, but is too short lived. Enjoy the guitar and piano melodies towards the end, subtle but really crisp production. Another song that’s just okay
4. GREW UP (ft. Haile Supreme) – Beat isn’t as mellow on this one, has this real foreboding bass line, gives the song this slightly haunting vibe. Some of the most impressive rhymes and flows so far from CJ, some real solid bars too, probably the most I’ve enjoyed a verse on this album. Enjoy this hook too, Haile sounds amazing and the hook overall is simple but catchy. Second verse is pretty fire too, good mix of CJ’s usual delivery and this hungry Jamaican inspired delivery, enjoy the contrast and the overall sound of it. More solid flows too. Enjoy the scratching in the production. Good song overall, nothing special but is enjoyable all the way through
5. Show You – Another old-school kinda beat, has this chaotic New York City feel. Hook is simple and repetitive but is short and catchy so isn’t too bad. Some real enjoyable flows from CJ and he changes up his delivery subtly to keep things exciting. Love the saxophone in the beat again. Some great bars and storytelling on display from CJ. This whole song fits the old school vibe perfectly, another good song
6. I TRIED (ft. OSHUN) – The crooning At the start is strangely enjoyable, sets this kinda somber mood for the track. CJ’s singing on the hook is actually really nice too, sounds great and has a solid little rhyme scheme. Real different delivery from CJ on this one, is a nice change, and is quite decent throughout. Flows well and changes it up a couple times too. Love how OSHUN handles the second hook, has an amazing voice and does the hook just as good as CJ. Her verse is really solid too, has a simple but enjoyable flow and her delivery is always amazing despite her changing it up a bunch. Super impressive feature from OSHUN all round. The CJ outro is nothing special but doesn’t take away from the song. Enjoyable track
7. BLOCK PARTY (ft. Kirk Knight) – Another mellow old school beat, and CJ is back to having a fairly boring delivery and basic flows. First verse isn’t too special at all. CJ’s singing on the hook is surprisingly good, has some solid melodies and is actually a real catchy hook all round. Kirk Knight matches CJ with the averageness, has some fairly simple flows which don’t change up much, and an average delivery. One of the best hooks on the album, but unfortunately a real mediocre song overall.
8. City We From (ft. Conway The Machine) – This Beat is extra pleasant with these angelic piano melodies. Hook is a big contrast, sounds evil and isn’t too catchy or exciting. Conway verse is okay, has some good rhymes and bars but the flows and delivery is real mid for the duration of the verse. Hook is definitely quite boring. CJ has some super solid rhymes and rhyme schemes, but the delivery is quite monotone and the flows are super simple, pretty average verse. Whole song was lacking energy or something exciting, below average song
9. Jooks – CJ starts off strong, some enjoyable flows from the beginning, delivery is still lacking though. Still a solid first verse, lots of decent flows and some more solid rhymes/bars too. CJ picks up the delivery a couple times, steps it up to this more aggressive delivery which sounds really good. Song had good qualities but overall was lacking, needed a hook I think
10. LV Ascot – Really intriguing beat on this one, love the subtle vocal samples and captivating guitar melodies. Some more impressive flows from CJ at times, has some real enjoyable faster flows. Delivery is a bit boring and one dimensional again, but the flows and cultural references make it quite good regardless. The little hook has an awesome flow to it, and some solid rhyme schemes too. Second verse has some real solid bars, with more impressive flows and rhymes. Changes things up a bunch as well. Good song overall
11. Strugglin’ – Hook is okay but is real basic, fairly simple rhyme scheme, a basic flow and the repetition is unnecessary, may grow on me. Some strange flows in the first verse, nothing too exciting though. CJ rides the beat really well and has some impressive bars and rhymes, but first verse is quite average. Second verse is more of the same, more enjoyable bars but the delivery is lacking, and there is less versatility in the flows on the second verse, just average again. Song drags on a minute too long. Average song overall
12. HARD TIMES (ft. Lexipaz) – Not a fan of CJ’s melodies on the hook, are kinda pleasant but aren’t anything special, and the hook overall is too repetitive without being catchy. Some fairly average flows and delivery on the verses again, decent lyrics again tho. Really enjoy the female singing in the background, adds an amazing layer to the backing beat. Whole first verse is mediocre though, with the exception of Lexipaz’s singing. Enjoy the harmonies in the hook too. CJ has a slightly different flow and delivery than usual in the second verse, sounds more like Wale. Good rhymes and lyrics, but other than that the song is quite basic and unmemorable. Lexipaz is a great addition, but the song overall falls flat
13. THE PRO’S (ft. T’nah, Chuck Strangers, Dessy Hinds, Dirty Sanchez, Rokamouth & Nyck Caution) – CJ makes a statement with a solid opening verse, changes his flows up a bunch and showcases how well he can rap at times. Chuck Strangers has this great slow flow, and a really enjoyable delivery throughout his verse, good rhymes too. Dessy Hinds has a super enjoyable delivery and some impressive flows too, with a bunch of great rhymes and bars. Dirty Sanchez is a bit mediocre, has a simple delivery and some basic flows for the most part. Rokamouth has a much more exciting delivery than most, is just real captivating and he keeps up this super solid flow throughout most his verse, changing it up more at the end, real good verse. Nyck Caution has some of the best rhymes of the track and flows amazingly over the beat, has some solid bars too. T’nah sounds amazing harmonising in the background of Nyck’s verse, and on her sung outro too. Really enjoyable song, no one really dragged the song down, I think Dessy May have had my favourite verse.
Overall I felt like this album was quite average as a whole, with a couple of standout tracks but a whole lot of mediocrity. On paper it looks like I enjoyed this more than I did, with 5/13 tracks making it into my ‘good songs’ playlist, but all of those 5 are a 7/10 at best. This not only meant there were no ‘great’ songs, but also meant that when grouped up with the average tracks the project as a whole was a bit of a bore to get through. The album lacked creativity, individuality, and exciting moments, and is therefore one I can’t see myself coming back to.
One thing I mentioned above is that this album lacked creativity, and a big part of that was because of the production. Statik Selektah is one of my favourite producers, and although I think every one of his beats on here is ‘nice’, none of them are unique or exciting. There is a great cohesion with almost all of the instrumentals having this old school New York vibe, but there are no bangers, no interesting synths or melodies, and a lack of crisp bass; it’s like the whole album is just different compositions of boom bap drums, piano’s and saxophones. CJ Fly didn’t bring a whole lot of creativity himself though, with a majority of the songs being fairly one-dimensional and boring all the way through in terms of his flows, delivery, lyrics, and even song structures. Despite most of the features delivering enjoyable performances, I thought a couple of them brought nothing new to their respective tracks; notably Kirk Knight on ‘BLOCK PARTY’ and Conway the Machine on ‘City We From’.
On that note though, one of my favourite things about this album was the featured artists, especially the female artists he had featured. CJ had a total of 3 different female vocalists contribute to the album and I loved all of their contributions; T’nah sounded amazing harmonising with CJ on ‘GOIN THRU’, OSHUN delivered both a beautiful hook and an impressive verse on ‘I Tried’, and on ‘HARDTIMES’ CJ utilises singer Lexipaz for some stunning backing vocals and harmonies. Aside from the female vocalists, I thought Haile Supreme was the best part of ‘BARRELL’ and provided some impressive singing on ‘Grew Up’, and all of the Pro Era members had quality verses on the posse cut ‘THE PROS’. CJ himself had a couple of standout moments, most notably his verse on the previously mentions ‘THE PROS’, his singing on ‘I TRIED’, and both his storytelling and versatility in delivery on the song ‘Show You’.
So overall this was definitely not the most enjoyable project to listen through, and I personally thought it wasn’t as good as CJ is capable of. It did nothing to stand out from its contemporaries, with average hooks and simple production most of the tracks fell flat, and the album as a whole lacked memorable songs or memorable moments. Some songs were certainly enjoyable, but even then it was often due to an incredible feature and not a standout performance from either CJ or Statik Selektah. I’d recommend this to anyone that’s a fan of New York rap, but other than that this project doesn’t offer to much to add to the current music scene.
Or listen in full for free on YouTube here!
My Favourite Songs were GREW UP, Show You, I TRIED, LV Ascot, & The Pro’s.
What were your favourite songs from RUDEBWOY?
Do you think CJ has the talent to put out a better album this this, or do you think he is stuck releasing mediocre albums?
How would you compare this to past CJ Fly releases?
Thanks for Reading!
– Shan –