REVIEW: ALYST — Gleeming (ft. Affluent Oscar Sanchez) (SINGLE)

ALYST isn’t hitting us with a big hook in his new single “Gleeming (ft. Affluent Oscar Sanchez),” nor is he flirting with the crossover melodic trap mess that a lot of rappers have been woefully trying to make their own in the last couple of years. In “Gleeming,” we’re getting nothing but personality — raw, front and center — and while it comes with a bit of danger lurking in the backdrop, I don’t know that there would be any better way to get to know a player as stealthy as ALYST is. He’s cutting with his words and even deadlier when he’s got the right kind of a bassline beneath his vocal, and in this performance, both of his best attributes are in the spotlight soaking up every second of attention they can possess.

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The music video doesn’t change the mix of the studio cut in favor of something more streamlined but gives us just as much of the texture-heavy sound that we’d get just in listening to the song by itself. I think this is worthy of noting mostly because it’s becoming less and less the standard for some of the rappers claiming to be on ALYST’s level at the moment, and it’s perhaps the element most indicative of where he’s going professionally at this point in his career. He’s about the substance before the flash, and the ironic part about it is that he’s already got enough natural pizzazz to turn a couple of heads just with his confident presence in the video for “Gleeming.”

I don’t think ALYST had to get as filthy with the bassline/percussion meld in the mix as he did, but all the same, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t respect the aesthetic he’s capturing so epically here. In an age that isn’t exactly rewarding players who know how to work excess into the fold successfully — and more than once in their career — this is an artist who is charging forth with a hedonistic, shamelessly swaggering demeanor unfortunately missing from the lot of premium beats I’ve been listening to in 2021. His ambition is inescapable in this recording, and something tells me that it’s only going to grow more interesting and provocative as he gets his footing on the mainstream side of the dial.

ALYST is a rapper coming into a class of east coast songwriters and producers who feel they have nothing to lose — the envelope has been pushed so far outside the limits of the traditional pop model that anything is possible (maybe even for the first time in the modern history of hip-hop). Still, I don’t think that there’s anything in his performance of “Gleeming” to attest to his being anyone but the right man for this era in his genre, and furthermore, the possibilities it holds if only managed by the right artists. ALYST has a lot of eyes on him this autumn, but he doesn’t appear to be squandering the attention at all; the polar opposite, in fact.

Colin Jordan