ALBUM REVIEW: ‘Rise and Lead’ by Saint Floew – A Bold Evolution of Hip Hop Sound


HARARE – Saint Floew, the maverick artist also known as Spice Tawanda Junior Mambo, has contributed immensely to the game we call Zim Hip Hop; and to cement his position in the game he recently released a powerful and innovative musical project with his latest album aptly named “Rise and Lead”.

Saint Floew rise and Lead album Zim hip hop album review
Saint Floew's performance at his Rise and Lead album launch in Harare. [Image: ZimSphere/File Photo]

This album not only showcases Saint Floew’s undeniable growth and inimitable artistic prowess, but also pushes the boundaries of hip-hop beats, creating a uniquely refreshing, accommodative, and engaging sonic experience. While the unconventional beats may initially raise eyebrows, they ultimately become a defining element of the album, contributing to its brilliance and originality.

Saint Floew, under the newfound stewardship of Nash Paints’ Tinashe Mutarisi, launched his latest album Rise and Lead on the 7th of October 2023 at Alex Sports Club in Harare. The album dropped almost exactly a year after Sauna Season, an EP that solidified mainstream status.

Prior, Saint Floew weaned off with Hip Hop Broke My Heart volume 1 and 2. It is on the premise of this memory that we deem it befitting to acknowledge the strides from which real inspiration can be drawn. He has remained unwavering in being a powerful and solidaristic voice of popular urban culture in Zimbabwe whose meteoric rise has consistently romanticized and challenged the brutalities of systematic beauracracies that go beyond containing the youthful dreams to a point where a majority who of course pursue something different end up in the dungeons.

The dungeon is evidently a place Saint Floew knows so much as evidenced by the literature he has amplified remarkably in all these projects. Briefly, this background tables term and conditions which when met, higher chances are that Saint Floew’s sophistication is easily deciphered.

From the very start, “Rise and Lead” presents a diverse range of beats, different from the usual hip-hop soundscapes. Saint Floew fearlessly experiments with various rhythms and melodies, weaving them seamlessly – although in other instances in the project it feels like too much of a compromise or stretch – into the fabric of his lyrics. While these beats may initially provoke skepticism or hesitation from listeners accustomed to more traditional hip-hop, they quickly reveal themselves as an essential element of Saint Floew’s unhindered artistic vision.

It has taken a couple of years for hip hop and dancehall to share the bed. As both are borrowed phenomena, it seems the industry has shaped in favor of a sonic that is abundantly inclined towards mainstream strands of afro-beats. It is indeed a not so much a welcome reality for purists of the hip hop culture to helplessly watch a rapper fit into dancing shoes—and dance until they fade into distant horizons. Saint Floew has however asserted his versatility from the early times of his career. His successful entrance into the mainstream is however greased by hip hop and rightfully a genre that he identifies with.

saint Floew rise and Lead album
File Photo 

As the album progresses, the beats become increasingly captivating and hypnotic. Saint Floew’s willingness to explore unconventional soundscapes pays off, resulting in tracks that command attention and defy expectations. Collaborations with talented artists such as Leefire, Master H, and Alvin Tha New Guy enhance these beats further, introducing fresh perspectives and contributing to the album's overall musical brilliance.

The idea of collaboration is fundamental in the contemporary music scene. Saint Floew has become one of the most sought after artists for collaborations in the country. He sidelines that demand in his album which features only Master H as a household name in the industry. Leefire delivered exceptionally well on the track Detention, which exudes their increasing chemistry at Nash—and this includes Alvin who did not take for granted the grand opportunity to showcase his charming vocal ability.

Apart from their musical impact, the beats on “Rise and Lead” also serves a noteworthy thematic purpose. The themes form an integral part of Saint Floew’s exploration of pertinent social issues, particularly the prevalent scourge of drug abuse that holds among the disillusioned Zimbabwean youth. The unconventional beats symbolize the chaos and uncertainty that accompany substance abuse, providing a vivid sonic representation of the struggles faced by young individuals. This element elevates the album beyond mere entertainment, positioning it as a catalyst for reflection and societal change.

The tone of this album fluctuates from high pitch and inflections to melancholic sounds that allow Saintfloew’s expressive lyricism to thrive. The tracks like Prayer and On Grave have a significant commonality despite their surface value appeal. Prayer draws us into spiritual reflection whilst On Grave makes declarations that as well reiterate the subject matter of one’s inner drive to succeed. The same lines are drawn on the theme tracks Rise and Lead (intro) and Bhinya Boss (outro) – these tracks address the artist’s actual lived experience and relay the need for ‘ghetto’ youths to remain steadfast in pursuit of their goals.

The other tracks No Mercy, Wero and Jive gave Saint Floew ample space to float on the beats and remind folk of a defiant ego that does not necessarily concern itself with the outside world. Chidhumo naMasendeke takes away the most intriguing song title though he wittily euphemizes the famed legacy of notoriety that ravaged the country’s crime and justice system decades ago. Musande was chosen as the lead single to this album based on the evidence that it was the last track released during roll-out, the only song with visuals and yet alone coming at number 7 on the track list. We would opine that On Grave could have achieved more had it been given the same measure of sanctity.

In conclusion, Saint Floew’s “Rise and Lead” album presents a groundbreaking evolution of hip-hop beats. While initially unconventional, these beats ultimately become a defining characteristic of the album, setting it apart from the norm and showcasing Saint Floew’s artistic maturity and fearless experimentation. 

The collaboration with talented musicians adds depth and excitement to the beats, creating a truly engaging sonic experience. Furthermore, this exploration of unconventional beats serves a thematic purpose, shedding light on social issues and providing a unique perspective on the struggles faced by Zimbabwean youth.

Album Rating → 7/10

You can listen to the album Rise and Lead by Saint Floew on YouTube and across various digital streaming platforms. 

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