When we sat down with Messiah back in February, the Harlem-born MC broke down what it meant to blend his Dominican roots with his New York hip-hop education as worked on his first LP. While 2015 marked a year of meteoric success for Messiah, he was sometimes criticized for relying too heavily on the Spanish remix trend, which found him and other MCs riding the coattails of massive American hits like “Hotline Bling” and “Commas.” Now, with the release of his debut Made In Europe, he’s ready to silence those who may have been skeptical about his output of original material.
Inspired by – you guessed it – traveling in Europe while touring behind the success of his various mixtapes and covers, Made In Europe hosts a wide range of influences that don’t just draw literally from the LP’s namesake. It most closely bears a resemblance to the hybrid that Messiah has spoken about trying to curate – urbano, trap and 90s-styled hip-hop. Co-executive produced with frequent collaborator DJ 40, Messiah calls on several Latino producers, including Sone on the two opening tracks, “Ay!” and “Rutina.” These songs, particularly the former, are an immediate indication that Messiah is more than capable of crafting sparse, ad-lib-heavy trap bangers loaded with catchy hooks, without relying on already established hits.
Messiah was keen to include other MCs from the Latino hip-hop movement (of which he fancies himself the leader). While “Bellaca” (with Lito Kirino) and “Yo Quiero” (with former bandmate Tali) contain familiar trap elements, the Shadow Blow-assisted “Este Party” (produced by Latin Grammy winners A&X) sounds more like a DJ Mustard party song.
The last third of the album holds the most surprises. While the Euro club-styled “Promesas Fingidas” is a bit of a misstep, sounding dated and uninspired, the Pinto Wamin-produced “Young Messi” is much more intriguing. With a quick-paced 90s New York instrumental backed by melodic synths, the song has a warmly gritty effect that complements Messiah’s rapid-fire flow nicely. On “He Jurado,” the MC takes the Latin pop route, letting his vocals shine on the hook and bridge in between rapped bars. It’s easy to draw a parallel between a song like this and Drake’s success as a creator of R&B/hip-hop hybrids that the masses live for; it stands out as arguably the most crossover-ready track on the album. The set’s closing song “No Me Tumbe La Nota!” finds Messiah letting his sung vocals take center stage once again. It’s an interesting way to end an album called Made In Europe, especially because of its distinct reggae vibes. It does, however, stand in line with what Messiah has said about creating sounds that speak to all of the elements of his musical upbringing.
After a whirlwind 18 months and the release of his first official project, Messiah seems to be ready to stake his claim as a formidable artist with crossover appeal, while still maintaining his Spanish-language identity (the album, like most of Messiah’s projects, contains a Spanish-leaning Spanglish blend). It’s a solid start for the 20-something rapper, and once he’s able to perfect what his ideal hybrid style is, we may see him become a major player in the Latino hip-hop community.