Album: “The Liz Tape”
Artist: Armani Caesar
Label: Griselda Records
Release Date: September 18th
The Liz Tape may only be 25 minutes, but that doesn’t stop Armani Caesar from proving that she’s a force to be reckoned with on her debut LP. Being the first woman to be signed by Buffalo recording label Griselda Records, Caesar has already made her mark with her outstanding album, which features many signature sounds from the company while also staying unique.
Though Caesar has released several projects and singles before, The Liz Tape is her first real LP. The album was released by Griselda on Sept. 18th, and Caesar is from Buffalo as well.
The cover of The Liz Tape features a portrait of actress Elizabeth Taylor with a third eye, which suggests that every track on the album works to create a mythical persona of a woman who is successful, driven, and seductive—but will not hesitate to get at those who mess with her.
“Countdown,” which is about getting revenge after being screwed over by a man, exemplifies these themes the most with lines like, “Ain’t nothin’ like a woman’s scorn / I had you wishin’ you was never born.” Just like the image of three-eyed Taylor depicted on the cover, which is reminiscent of some female creatures from Greek mythology, Caesar is glamorous and dangerous. The old, dreamy pianos, which appear on several other tracks, help create an old Hollywood feel that goes along with using Taylor’s likeness in the title and cover.
Throughout the album, Caesar name drops a lot of expensive brands, and the track “Mac 10s for Everybody,” which features fellow Griselda rapper, Westside Gunn, provides more than enough justification for this. On “Mac 10s for Everybody,” Caesar details her struggles with poverty, living around violence, and how she overcame everything. The inclusion of this song adds the right amount of depth to the overall album. Though it is fun to hear artists flex their wealth and success, it is important to see that many come from struggles, and those struggles are often what motivates them, which is a common theme in Griselda’s music.
Along with Westside Gunn, other Griselda MCs including Conway the Machine and Benny the Butcher are featured on the album, too. The dynamic flow between Benny and Caesar on “Drill a RaMA” is one of the highlights of the album.
Though strong femininity flows throughout the whole album, if there is one quintessential “bad bitch” song, “THE LIZ” would be it. On the track, Caesar is unapologetic about her past success and her drive for more; it’s empowering to listen to, especially considering her past struggles outlined on the previous track. Almost every verse is memorable, with lines “New gun, come with a drum, but no bang / I get in the booth, no turkey, I go ham” and “Like new orthopaedics, bitch I’m back on my feet.”
After “THE LIZ,” the album’s instrumentals shift a bit to be more reminiscent of an older gritty mafioso sound. The blend of both these sounds and the dream-like classical instrumentals create an interesting juxtaposition between the personas of an old Hollywood starlet and a ruthless female MC. The menacing production is most apparent on the exciting “Simply Done,” produced by DJ Premier, which details how she takes down her haters. Conway, who is featured on the track, briefly brings back gritty Griselda themes of being surrounded by violence with impactful lines like “Godfather s--t, I still might do the shootin’ / The graveyard in my city like a high school reunion.”
The way The Liz Tape balances two different vintage sounds is almost as impressive as how Caesar manages to combine different personas. On the one hand, she presents herself as a wealthy and glamorous star, not unlike Elizabeth Taylor or Ginger Rothstein, who she names a later track after. However, she also shows herself to be a tough femme fatale who will exact revenge on anyone who gets in her way.
The arts desk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org