Swizz Beatz proves he’s here to stay with ‘Poison’

by Connor Friday

Swizz Beatz proves he’s here to stay with ‘Poison’

Swizz Beatz

Epic Records · November 2, 2018

Swizz Beatz proves he’s here to stay with ‘Poison’

Just because Poison represents an impressive evolution for the veteran producer doesn’t mean he won’t fall victim to some of his less favorable tendencies.

It’s been 11 years since One Man Band Man, and Swizz Beatz is back. Combining sharp production with top-notch performances from top-notch performers, Poison is a journey start to finish. Aided by J. Cole as executive producer, Swizz goes enormous lengths to highlight the unique skill sets of each of his features, all the while leveraging his status as one of hip-hop’s premier hype-men. But Poison doesn’t let itself be limited by Beatz’s past discography: it treads new ground, blending storytelling, nostalgic boom-bap, and more modern melodic elements with Beatz’s simple, but enthusiastic hooks.

Starting with the intro, Swizz proves he’s not playing around. The album opens with a chilling poem, read beautifully by Áine Zion(a British poet and musician) over interweaving violins, followed by a triumphant orchestral finale. The album then dives straight into the deep end, with Swizz setting Lil’ Wayne loose over infectious boom-bap and icy piano on ‘Pistol On My Side.’ This track is the perfect example of Swizz ability to temper his production to suit his featured artist, which he uses generously on Poison. Whether it’s highlighting Nas and Pusha T’s brutal and emotional storytelling on ‘Echo’ and ‘Cold Blooded,’ 2 Chainz’s aggressive flexing on ‘Stunt’, or surprisingly, Young Thug’s skillful flow changes on ‘25 Soldiers.’

But just because Poison represents an impressive evolution for the veteran producer doesn’t mean he won’t fall victim to some of his less favorable tendencies. Although it’s his album, Swizz is at his best when his vocal contributions are reduced to ad-libs and at most, a very simple hook. Generally, he does a good job of keeping this in mind, but on tracks like ‘Come Again’ with Giggs, and ‘SWIZZMONTANA,’ Swizz is a little too involved. Even on the tracks with Nas, Pusha T, and Young Thug, there is too much from Swizz. But perhaps the biggest mistake on Poison is putting Kendrick Lamar (a Pulitzer prize winner!) on ‘Something Dirty / Pic Got Us,’ and not giving him a verse! Instead, Swizz let’s Styles P. and Jadakiss ramble over the beat, relegating Kendrick to chorus duty. Regardless, Swizz’s production is great, balancing the bite of nostalgic boom-bap with his more modern club hip-hop influences. This coupled with some outstanding performances from elite MC’s makes Poison an enormous success, in spite of a couple weaker points.

For those who are worried that Poison is the one-shot return of one of hip-hop’s old guard, Swizz has made it clear he’s here to stay. Swizz claims he has recorded over 70 songs and plans to release 5 more albums. Swizz might have missed the mark on a couple tracks, but if he continues to highlight the strengths of his features and evolve his eclectic fusion of nostalgia and modern hip-hop, he’ll have no shortage of fans.

Listen to Posion here: