Artists essentially spend their entire lives creating their debut albums. Therefore, when it comes time to create a follow-up to a well-received debut, some artists fall into a phenomenon known as the “sophomore slump.”
In 2020, Blxst made his official debut with No Love Lost, and the album was the world’s introduction to rapper-singer-songwriter’s perfect, seamless blend of R&B and West Coast hip hop. With his ability to kill a hook, he immediately drew comparisons to West Coast legend Nate Dogg. The album received praise from fans and critics alike, who fell in love with Blxst’s fresh, innovative and bouncy sound that quickly took radio airwaves and editorial playlists by storm. “Overrated” and “Be Alone” were the album’s breakout singles that became synonymous with Blxst’s sound — melodic, R&B-inspired vocals paired alongside groovy West Coast hip hop production. And while “No Love Lost” was all about the young go-getter’s desire for loyalty over love (as he selflessly exclaims on the track “Overrated”), Before You Go seems to be a direct continuation of that desire but with an ample amount of appreciation for his journey and the love he does have sprinkled in.
Come 2022, fresh off of his first headlining tour and during his performance at Dreamville Festival, Blxst announced Before You Go would be released April 22 at the end of his set. On April 14, he revealed the official tracklist on his Instagram. While No Love Lost had no features on its initial release (the deluxe version introduced several), Before You Go was set to have just four features from Arin Ray, Grandmaster Vic, Rick Ross and Zacari.
If you’ve ever seen Blxst live, it’s impossible to not take notice of his singular backup singer, Cheyenne Wright. She compliments his vocals in a manner that can only be described as heavenly. During his shows, Blxst is always sure to give her several moments to display her powerhouse voice, and she blows the crowd away each and every time. In a bold decision, he gives Wright the honor of opening up Before You Go with the 52-second intro “Sky Lounge Music.” If you’ve ever attended a Black pentecostal church service in the south, her voice embodies the entire choir and then some. It’s the perfect way to kick the album off, and it’s only up from there.
What follows Wright’s gospel-inspired performance is the saxophone-led, “Never Was Wrong.” The track details a relationship where a girl seems to be fed up with Blxst’s antics and lack of effort, while the young star pleads for her to “Sit down, just level with me” and cites their past history as more of a reason for her to stay. This track introduces a common theme in Blxst’s discography — relationship woos that leave him questioning himself and others. “About You” follows “Never Was Wrong” and builds upon that same theme with lyrics such as “Are you the type to stick around for whatever comes?” and “If you put a limit on your love, then count me.” “About You” samples the 90s R&B classic “Faded Pictures” by Case and Joe and turns the slow jam into a mid-tempo, late night drive staple.
Speaking of late night drive staples, “Fake Love In LA” follows and is a rare time where Blxst gives up hook responsibilities. It proves to be an intelligent decision as Arin Ray croons the hook while Blxst glides through each of the verses. “Fake Love In LA” is the start of a three-track stretch of features and proves to be an instant standout. “Pick Your Poison” brings on production from Grandmaster Vic (who includes a breathtaking violin solo before the last chorus), another rarity for Blxst as he typically does the majority of his production. “Couldn’t Wait For It” puts the relationship talk down for a bit and places a focus on Blxst’s journey as an artist thus far. It’s a track that finds him doing more reminiscing than fantasizing, as lines such as “Had dreams of being an owner since this big” show that major success has been a long time coming for the talented LA native.
He continues the hustle talk with “Still Omw,” another one of the many bright moments on this album. Cheyenne Wright returns on this track for vocal assistance and although her presence is minimal, it’s impactful. And while “Couldn’t Wait For It” focused more on Blxst reminiscing on his life before he found success, “Still Omw” is Blxst letting everyone know he’s nowhere near finished. With lines such as “Barely gettin’ started but still gotta embrace it when it’s from the bottom, it’s a different foundation,” Blxst may be “forever humble,” but he’s still very much on the rise.
“Keep Comin’ Back” ups the tempo and is one of the catchiest tracks on the album. Even though the track was produced by D.Woo, it’s got Blxst’s signature bounce, and you can’t help but sing along after the second chorus. There’s a moment where the kick and snare are muted, and we’re left with a series of snaps above the sample alongside Blxst’s vocals, and it shows the up-and-comer’s impeccable talent for finding the melody in his cadence — his ability to “hook-ify” any sequence of lyrics. Blxst and Zacari detail the struggles of remaining loyal in “Sometimes,” and Zacari stands out as one of the most impressive features on the album. His unique vocal inflections immediately catch the listener’s attention and compliment Blxst’s chilled-out flow beautifully.
Every great album has its landmark track, and “Every Good Girl” is an excellent example of one that leaves a lasting impact on the listener. It’s the perfect embodiment of Blxst’s signature sound, with just enough experimentation to set itself apart. The track samples LL Cool J’s 1990 hit “Around the Way Girl” but doesn’t rely on the sample for its melody or cadence. Blxst has truly mastered the art of sampling a classic record without allowing it to overpower the song. If you were a fan of “Wrong or Right” from his debut album, No Love Lost, “Every Good Girl” may be your new favorite song. It’s the main track catching the attention of fans and editorial playlists alike — and with the video Blxst dropped to accompany the album’s release, it’s only going to continue to gain traction.
“Be Forreal” showcases Blxst’s rapping skills and reminds listeners that even though he’s a melodic singer first, he can still hold his own behind the mic (his “Fire in the Booth” freestyle also shows this). “Talk to Me Nicely” is his “talk my shit” track where he clues listeners into his newfound life at the top. With lines like “But we call it success when your circle is all rich” and “So now that we up, don’t good advice me,” it’s safe to say the 29-year-old’s confidence has also seen an uptick with his success. “Let It Be Known” is the perfect closer to the album. He gets painfully honest about his values, and we’re brought back to the importance of loyalty — a full circle moment considering where we began with 2020’s No Love Lost.
Unfortunately, some R&B artists are hit the worst when it comes to a sophomore slump, yet Blxst has managed to completely avoid that and continue building on his sound. For some, Before You Go can feel like a 13-track, 32-minute extension of his 2020 debut, No Love Lost. And while it can be seen like that in some ways, it’s more so the establishment of Blxst as an artist. No Love Lost was the perfect introduction to the rising star’s sound and what he stood for, and Before You Go is the perfect follow-up that proves he’s here to stay.