4.5Final Score

OneHunnidt - Field Sobriety_cover

OneHunnidt – Field Sobriety
2015; The NUMB3RS Committee
BUY: iTunes

“That’s the thing about a work in progress, man – long as you workin’ and progressin’, you still… still on your way up.”

A lot can change in three years’ time.

Back in 2012, OneHunnidt was just scratching the surface. With Kirko Bangz then-knighted as the city’s presumed rap savior, every other emcee in Houston was just trying to get in the conversation for “next.” OneHunnidt emerged as an artist who went against the grain. Where the staple for many was money, women, and stunting, OneHunnidt dared to dabble in social commentary in his songs. And he bragged on himself when very few (outside of SXSW and the Houston Press) knew who he was. This approach drove KeepIt100, the artist’s debut LP which covered as many topics as possible over eighteeen tracks. KeepIt100 was good, but because it tried to accomplish so much, some songs – and some messages – likely got lost in the masses.

Between then and now, the man born Sean Celestine learned some things. He spent most of late 2012 through mid-2014 in the background; but in 2015, he stepped into the spotlight once again with his sophomore effort Field Sobriety.

Initially a mixtape – one that, in its earliest form, was going to be hosted by DJ Hella Yella – Field Sobriety evolved in the same way Hunnidt himself did. It was often delayed, due to the rapper’s perfectionist nature, the revisiting of some concepts and the outright eliminating of others. And here, in its final form, Field Sobriety tells two stories.

The first, is a journey into the mind of OneHunnidt; literally, through interludes and outros facilitated by the fictional psychiatrist “Dr. Smith” (played by “The Yellow Bandit” Cecilia Smith) as OneHunnidt is “in session” with her. Unlike KeepIt100, Sobriety is focused – instead of jumping around, it commits to one long narrative with a few vignettes along the way. Its thirteen tracks seamlessly flow one into the other (the one glaring exception being “The Longway,” whose loud horns and motorcycle-gang hard riding beat courtesy of Yung Knight and Trakksounds, is somewhat jarring so soon after the sobering “Closed Caption”). This especially shows when “Homage” picks up right where “Screw Culture” left off; and in the album’s home stretch of “Sapiosexual,” “Fruition” and “Poor Wet Tree” (an obvious play on “poetry”), which all come from different producers but hit one after the other in a nice, mellow contrast to the more upbeat first half of the LP.

“Screw Culture” allows Hunnidt to pay his respects to the musical style and pioneering Houston artists that influenced his own (one such local legend, E.S.G. of the Screwed Up Click, even features on the track) while damn near making a case as to why he MIGHT deserve to stand alongside them. “Payola” is superb and full of energy, from Hunnidt’s declarations that “You got me FUCKED up!” on the bridge to his adapting his flow to producer Chris Rockaway’s infectious instrumental. And “Sapiosexual” is an obvious “for the ladies” track, with OneHunnidt going Casanova and weaving between spoken word and rapping.

Field Sobriety’s features breathe life into the project, as well. Bee Honey’s voice is stronger and more moving than ever, whether it’s haunting on “Homage” or channeling Lil’ Mo’s turn on Ja Rule’s “I Cry” on “Empty Goals.” Scotty ATL and Sean Falyon give a ruggedness to “The Longway” that it might not have otherwise. Sequoyah’s voice is nothing short of incredible on “Sapiosexual.” The production is just as top-notch. BeatsByRelli sets a seductive tone on “Sapiosexual” to perfectly match the song’s content, with soft drum taps that build the listener’s anticipation. And Yung Knight’s warped instrumental “Ain’t Mad” gives the track a “fun house” feel.

The second story, however, lies in Hunnidt’s confidence.

Where his debut seemed to be feeling its way around, Field Sobriety is OneHunnidt at his most self-assured. He’s not afraid to come out the gate swinging on intro track “JJ Watt.” His storytelling has improved – what began on “Father’s Day” on KeepIt100, has grown into tale-weaving on tracks like “Closed Caption” and “Fruition.” He pokes fun at the same culture he exists within on the teasing “Ain’t Mad.” And so the level is quality is greater, because OneHunnidt now has an ear for what works and what doesn’t. Still, he’s brave enough to take chances musically, like going trap rapper for a second on the Code Redd-produced “Major League.”

On Field Sobriety, it’s not about Hunnidt making himself accessible. It’s about the listener hearing what he has to say. You can either love or hate OneHunnidt, he no longer cares. But, it’s pretty damn hard to hate Field Sobriety as a body of work, because it raises the bar in every way.