Gilbere Forte seemingly emerged out of nowhere with his cleverly branded #PRAY movement, a marketing accomplishment in the same league as that of newcomer Chance the Rapper with Acid Rap. The Philadelphia, PA native is the perfect example of reinvention, or rather, successful transition. Pray follows two of Forte’s previous mixtapes, though it definitely has been the most anticipated so far. The EP follows Gilbere’s recent signing with both Epic Records and CAA.
Featuring impressive versatile backdrops provided by frequent collaborator Raak, the project’s production line-up also features Grandtheft, Bengie and Ghost Loft. Perhaps the most impressive collaborations, aside from budding Chicago songstress Nylo, are with Pat Grossi (better known as Active Child). His gloomy vocals float throughout the atmospheric, moody “Nolita” and leave Gilbere with one of his strongest tracks on Pray – a song that clearly could have been a big standalone single for Grossi himself. Forte’s clever wordplay follows Grossi’s common narrative of heartbreak. “Forever Sin” finds the Philly emcee in the same place, channeling a flow extremely similar to Drake on So Far Gone, in which he discusses his recent obstacles in the journey to success – from signing to a label that has since folded, lining up impressive collaborations with the likes of Pusha T but not quite breaking into the forefront, struggling with love and the spotlight and more.
While the EP has its share of ethereal, relaxing songs, Pray’s strength is in its versatility. Gilbere elaborates on his unfortunate mishaps with his previous deal, laments about love lost, and shares his journey as a rising artist. “Polaroids” is a hip-hop/EDM hybrid of Ivan Gough, Feenixpawl and Georgi Kay’s international hit, “In My Mind,” and Raak manages to fuse the genres together without making us cringe. The feel-good “Down for the Ride” boasts an infectious R&B hook perfect for summer parties. “Double Cupped” showcases an entrancing, minimal beat with some pitched-down vocals. The Epic signee deftly switches up his flow throughout the Southern-influenced beat, falling in and out of love and reminiscing on friends who’ve turned into strangers all on the same track. The only song that fails to add any depth to the EP is “Anigma,” an upbeat addition that really doesn’t do much other than allow the rising rapper a playground to freestyle over, and he struggles to keep us as captivated as we were on previous songs.
Nevertheless, Gilbere’s strength in versatility also proves to be his biggest weakness so far. Forte needs to find his own sound and grow in his own direction. Though Raak shines on production on most of the tracks, Gilbere often falls into cadences and deliveries much too similar to that of Kanye West. Such is the case on “Streets Stay Crashing,” one of Raak’s most infectious instrumentals on the project, which finds the emcee delivering verses with Kanye’s famous urgency and flow. “Pray” finds the LA-based spitter in the same exact predicament for the entire duration of the song. For someone who harbors the ability to experiment with different cadences and different deliveries, Gilbere’s greatest fault is the lack of originality in those instances.
Pray is a solid offering, not only by the MC, but also by Raak. With great potential, Gilbere Forte proves his witty lyricism and versatile delivery could leave him poised for a true breakthrough if he develops his own sound, and he clearly is already well on his way.
Stream/download the EP here.