The Beautiful & Damned

by: G-Eazy

Exploring the two sides to his personality, the Bay Area rapper born Gerald Gillum tackles his duality as G-Eazy on his third effort, The Beautiful & Damned. A double album, the collection chronicles the pitfalls of a hedonistic lifestyle in the limelight, as well as the clichéd behavior that comes with the territory. With production from the likes of the Futuristics, Boi-1da, Dakarai, David Guetta, and others, it's his best-produced and most pop-leaning offering to date, elevated by a stacked roster of guests. Soulful vocalists Charlie Puth ("Sober") and Sam Martin ("Leviathan") provide plaintive choruses to offset Eazy's cautionary musings about his fast living, while Kehlani ("Crash & Burn") and Madison Love ("Mama Always Told Me") contribute two of the many highlights on The Beautiful & Damned. In fact, the album functions best when Eazy is paired with a female foil, his bad-boy heartthrob image tamed by an often stronger presence. On "No Limit," both Eazy and A$AP Rocky take a back seat to the show-stealing (and showstopping) Cardi B, her verse as satisfying and hard-hitting as Nicki Minaj's on "Monster." Elsewhere, Zoe Nash and Anna of the North make similar improvements, but it's the lead single, "Him & I," that truly shines. A self-described "2017 Bonnie and Clyde" with then-girlfriend Halsey, it's the type of song that makes an entire album worth the effort, an immediate hit and standout. On his own, Eazy's solo tracks lean toward contemporary 2017 trap stylings, hypnotic and woozy atmospherics pairing with typically dark and fatalistic lyrics like "I would die a legend if today they JFK me." However, at the album's close, Eazy makes a surprising turn toward clarity and defiance, taking the podium to address social issues on "Love Is Gone" with Drew Love of THEY., before ending on a poignant note with "Eazy," a warning to his younger self. Through the dark and the light, the arrogance and the contrition, the temptation and the control, both Eazy and Gillum take their turns in the spotlight like a leather-clad, slick-haired Jekyll and Hyde. With an inspired guest list and excellent production, The Beautiful & Damned is a satisfying artistic accomplishment that cautions as much as it seduces. ~ Neil Z. Yeung

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