If you asked me what I knew about Baltimore, Maryland a week ago it would consist of the city’s homicide rate and Freddy Gray (R.I.P). Perhaps I could quote you a line from Omar, or remember a scene of stylized violence, and despair depicting the cities drug problem from “The Wire.” But that was before I was put on to Don Neil and his project “Break".
Baltimore native Don Neil blesses us with an album highlighting the problems, and challenges of the hustle. Whether it’s navigating the rocky terrain of the rap game, or having to let go of people, and situations that don’t benefit his success; Don Neil continues to search not only for recognition but himself. The album starts with “Be” a track dedicated to the rappers dream chasing lifestyle. Don Neil reminds us that he has been working even sacrificing his education to maybe his grandma’s chagrin for a career in hip-hop. Throughout the pitfalls and tireless days and nights of the grind, he emphasizes the most important rule of being an artist: “Be Yourself.” Joints like “Break” and “Nixon” solidify the rappers blue collar approach to his craft. Neil pleads with us not to sleep on him because he is on the cusp of upgrading his watch, lifestyle and position in hip-hop.
The song “I’m Weak “focuses on the opposition plotting his downfall, and delighting in Don Neil’s defeat, but he refuses to listen to the haters. “Talk to Me” is an exercise in introspection, and self-doubt, and how the emcee counters that with perseverance and belief. Failed love and heartbreak permeates the track “Find Your Love”. The fledgling artist reassures his love interest of his fondness and dedication. Last but certainly not least the record “God Bless.” Maybe not the most radio friendly record on the album but I believe that it is the most important. “God Bless” showcases the talent that is Mr. Don Neil. The wordplay, and the singing are exceptional on this track. The honesty and vulnerability on this record is palpable. “God Bless” is a sonic signal of the potential of this artist. Hopefully Don Neil keeps his word that he has been working; because that leads to what we all want: More Music.