Fresh off of his success as a featured guest (read: co-host) of Action Bronson’s newly televised series F*CK, That’s Delicious, Meyhem Lauren presents his next mixtape (album?), Piatto D’Oro. The tape serves as a follow up to Lauren’s Silk Pyramids (2014), entirely produced by Buckwild, and is his first solo release since 2012’s Mandatory Brunch Meetings. Bronson’s right-hand man brings a lyrical style suited to his gangly but never lumbering delivery, one that flaunts his rise to wealth and pseudo-stardom. And while many of Lauren’s newest fans made their way off of the coattail of his role in the Viceland series, those that stay for the entirety of Piatto D’Oro will be pleased.
From the jump I’ll make it clear: I’m one of those fans. Lauren’s name was not completely foreign to me, as he’s been featured on a number of Bronsolino tracks from the Blue Chips series and more. That being said, I usually relegated him to being nothing more than one of the bearded chef’s frequent collaborators. But after binge watching much of the Web series and later the TV series, I highly anticipated his next release.
For fans of the food-laden verses employed by Lauren’s running-man Action Bronson, Piatto D’Oro should be familiar territory. Beginning with “Sauce,” the Queen’s rapper introduces the tape with an air of confidence that is rightly deserved. After touring alongside Bronson following his positively regarded Mr. Wonderful, Lauren flosses on Seth Silenser’s ominous production reminiscent of something from Raekwon’s Only Built for Cuban Linx Pt. 2.
Just as the opening track sets the tone lyrically, it also establishes one of Lauren’s bad habits: unnecessary hooks. While Laurenivici aptly handles his brand of story-telling through 15 tracks, too many tracks are hampered by lumbering and repetitive hooks that present bars that never really go anywhere. This difference is most noticeable between “Sauce” and “Aggressive Metal.” The opener establishes the hook essentially to allow for the title to come into play,
Born with a capital B, gotta floss on ‘em,
High gloss on ‘em, throw a lil sauce on ‘em,
We been stuntin’, I’m the top of the top,
You been frontin’.
Conversely, the next track “Aggressive Metal is presented sans-hook, effectively allowing the beat to reset before Lauren continues the narrative. That’s not to say the hooks are unbearable to listen to, but the project would not have been compromised by their absence.
Following into the third track, “Badmon Ting,” which was featured in the “Get Wild in Jamaica” episode of Bronson’s Viceland Series F*CK, That’s Delicious, sees Meyhem don a pseudo-Jamaican accent for the hook, which makes this one slightly more unique. This track also makes use of the third accomplice of Bronson’s show, Big Body Bes. A verified hypeman, Puerto Rico aficionado and jack of all trades, Body offers his usual brand of nonsensical antics. In this case he rides into the track’s intro on his “Puerto Rican horse,” very fitting to say the least.
“Bonus Round” brings the first of three Action Bronson appearances. His verse stands out particularly well against the Harry Fraud backdrop, a producer with which Bronson is no stranger to collaborating. Alongside samples of “Young Child” by Ronnie Laws (1980) and “Warp Factor II” by Montana (1978), Lauren arrives in verse three, once again with the vocab-heavy braggadocio he’s established thus far. Body makes his second appearance, this time on the song’s outro, as imaginative and charming as ever.
Apart from the redundant hooks, fans might also find fault with the excess of punch lines and similies Lauren seems to enjoy. However unlike the most notable of these in recent hip-hop (Drake I’m looking at you), Lauren supplements them with his expansive vocabulary, thus they never feel too stale. He even seems to be self-aware of his persistent wordplay, rapping, “Intelligent, but my demeanor got a rugged feel,” on “Not Guilty.”
“Garlic and Oil” which features the second Bronson appearance is one of the standout tracks. Lauren and Bronson exchange verses on the track produced by A Villa that samples DJ Shadow’s “Six Days” (2002) and is reminiscent of a low budget martial arts flick. The muddied beat eventually gives way to something cleaner, a clear juxtaposition of the first half of the track that is summons thoughts of songs Barry White could have crooned over. And while rife with food references, the contrast between both halves of the song lead me to believe “Oil and Vinegar” might have been a more appropriate name.
Despite his consistent tough-guy image Lauren constructed thus far, he gives way to a (relatively) softer side on the Big French produced “Fuckin The Whole Crew.” Lamenting a promiscuous girl Lauren loved who he found was, well, fuckin’ the whole crew, Lauren uses the track to come to terms with it, only to resolve to find a new love which is ultimately met with laughter at the end of the track. This one was rather refreshing in a collection of primarily heavy handed songs, notably because of French’s airy synthesized production. Lauren returns to form in “Hate” and later “Flexxin” the latter of which marks producer Icerocks’ first appearance before returning for the penultimate track.
“Dragon V.S. Wolf” marks the long-awaited appearance of the last member of the F*CK That’s Delicious crew, The Alchemist. Similar to the second half of Garlic and Oil,” Al brings a daydreamy, laid-back production that begins with a faint feature from Marvin the Martian. At just over 2 minutes long, The Alchemist brings his welcomed style of production without taking away from the flow of Lauren’s album. In all honesty, this sounds more like a leftover from Bronson’s 2015 project, but is that really a bad thing?
Fittingly so, the final track, “Elevation” boasts the accomplished sounding production of DJ Muggs. “Lets keep elevating,” Meyhem raps, knowing that while this project comes to an end, he has more to come. Lauren sticks with the motivational vibe throughout telling listeners to “Make it happen by all means, explore dreams, live your thoughts out, try before you cross out.”
As his first proper solo release in 4 years, Lauren continues to solidify his sound without alienating the fans he’s gained from his TV presence. Exhibiting the tough persona honed in the streets of Queens, NY, Meyhem Lauren also boasts the food-critic, goofy and self-reflecting identities he’s shown on TV. Amidst production that oozes the NY sound not unlike the work of Pro Era’s Chuck Strangers or Statik Selektah (yes, I know he’s from Mass.), Lauren solidifies his presence on Piatto D’Oro as much more than Action Bronson’s sidekick.