Southside Houstonian Propain dropped off his album, It Ain't Safe Outside at the top of February. Since the album has released I play it through at least every other day. It Ain't Safe Outside is nothing short of a collection of stories, observations, thoughts and feelings directly from the soul of Propain. He thoroughly paints pictures with each bar, chorus, feature and sample. The album also connects some of the legends of Houston Hip Hop and it's contemporaries such as: Z-Ro, Sauce Walka, Lil Keke, Slim Thug, Paul Wall, Lil' Flip, Big Pokey, Big Jade, Peso Peso & more.
The album's production is handled by XO, Liljunemadedabeat & more. Production wise the album uses enough samples for the listener to find familiarity but also uses them in a way that it becomes it's own entity (s/o the creativity of Houston producers.) Propain is able to emit an energy that represents an undying love, care and support for his city. Throughout It Ain't The Same, Propain is emotes love, grief, faith, pain and anger. The aspect that continually has me revisiting the album is Propain's vulnerability and willingness to share them with his fans, supports, listeners. There's a courage that comes from speaking truth and staying true and authentic to one's soul.
It was difficult to choose favorite songs from It Ain't Safe Outside simply because the entire project sounds/feels so concise and coherent. From dribble, the album's opening track, "It Ain't Safe Outside" featuring Z-Ro has news clips and clip from Dave Chappelle's special where he mentions George Floyd. Already with the tone set, Propain dives into his thoughts about the state of the world from Corona Virus to police brutality.
"We don't get no therapy we just walk around like nothing fazed, just another day"
The next song, "Mama's Eyez" is told through Propain, but through what he imagines his Mama has seen. The track highlights how black death, poverty, gentrification and a variety of struggles traumatize us. Still very heartfelt, "Heart To Heart" serves as a reflection/vent for Propain and the weight that he often carries on his mind and shoulders. In this song we hear a lot of his inner most thoughts and feelings.
"I've been righteous all my life and all I got were scars"
"Championship Game" is used as a song to transition the album into a faster pace; he's talkin' his shit in this song. After Propain pops his shit a bit the album moves into "H-Town" featuring Sauce Walka. The track has very soulful production that uses a sample that sounds familiar to "I Ain't Made At Cha" by Tupac Shakur. A beautiful song where both artists pay homage to their city while also recognizing their own individual impact.
It Ain't Safe Outside shifts into the song, "Saturday Night Freestyle" that shows more versatility from Propain. The song is full of different rhyme schemes, pace increase, really spittin' - the type of song you'd put up against some grimey ass NY rappers. My favorite words from the song:
"But my niggas we gotta switch the direction. Your baby mama birthed your child and that's your biggest blessin'. Regardless of y'all's status, even if you not together, if you don't do nothin' else you gotta respect her"
After the freestyle, "Ashley Banks" gives a sweeter tone, a true love song. I appreciate this song a lot because we're hearing about romantic love and shows another level of vulnerability from Propain. There's a Trillville, "Some Cut" sample tucked in (at least the bed squeaking aspect.) The next track, "Freak" featuring Big Jade is a great song especially with the added Adina Howard sample. My only concern with this song is I'm noticing a pattern of only putting fire ass lady rappers on songs that have them expressing sexual tendencies. I want to hear lady rappers rap about more than their sexuality especially on an album that touches on much more than that.
Propain then turns the energy up with Peso Peso on "Rap Life" where they both give braggadocios raps. Production is hard af.
"So it seems fame is stronger than that crack pipe/ these hoes will sell their soul and do whatever for some app likes/ these niggas breakin' all their street codes just for that rap life/ they rather look like money than really get their sack right"
After the "conscious" turn up, Propain guides us to one of the first singles from the album, "Kill Me" featuring OTB Fastlane. This track touches on the frustrations of the many threats facing a young black man and/or boy. A memorable moment from the song is how he speaks on a friend who was locked up and how that will affect his daughter and where she will be when he's released. Another soulful song with poignant lyrics and beautiful trap spirituals from OTB Fastlane.
The last two songs of It Ain't Safe Outside are, "Underdawg" and "Way Too Fly." A perfect ending the album simply because in "Underdawg" he's literally talkin' about what the title concludes, the struggle of the underdawg but still demanding respect and acknowledgement. Then the album finishes with "Way Too Fly" where Propain enlists Houston legends: Lil Keke, Slim Thug, Z-Ro, Paul Wall, Big Pokey & Lil' Flip. Good luck finding your favorite verse from the song!
Overall, Propain delivered one of my favorite albums this year yet. It Ain't Safe Outside highlights all the different factors that make outside "unsafe" but at the same time represents that it ain't ever been safe for black people "outside." A very vulnerable album that speaks on black plight, respecting your baby mama, money management, staying true to your Self, where you from/how you represent and most importantly, beware of the snakes!