Flo Rida: R.O.O.T.S
(POE BOY/ATLANTIC RECORDS)
Flo Rida may not be the most respected MC in the game, but the Carol City, Florida, native knows how to move the crowd. With the success of his 2007 T-Pain–assisted breakout song “Low,” he found his winning formula, and even though the sales of his first album were hardly astounding (last year’s Mail on Sunday stalled at around 376,000 copies), the Grammy-nominated track earned the title of best-selling digital download of all time, with cumulative digital sales reaching over 4.6 million. So rather than deviate from that blueprint, Flo Rida built on it with his party-starting follow-up, R.O.O.T.S.
Chock-full of club anthems, singsongy lyrics and upbeat production, Flo’s sophomore set packs enough catchy jingles to keep him atop the charts, if nothing else. For example, the album’s first single, “Right Round,” is crafted around a sample of the 1985 new-wave tune “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record),” by British group Dead or Alive, and like many of the songs on R.O.O.T.S., it relies on infectious electronic dance samples to give it an extra kick. The strategy works on cuts like the melodic “Sugar,” featuring R&B newcomer Wynter, which borrows from Italian dance-pop outfit Eiffel 65’s 1999 single “Blue (Da Ba Dee)” for its foundation. The track’s sunny production sets the stage for the flirtatious, cheeky interplay between the rapper and the songstress, with the latter singing, “My lips like sugar, this candy got you sprung/So call me your sugar, you love you some,” and the rapper responding with cheesy rhymes like, “Hey, I got a mouthful of cavities/Sweet tooth full of mama, like sugar to me.”
The skirt chasing continues on the Akon-assisted “Available,” the rhyme spitter’s ode to the single life. Sonically, producer will.i.am fuses the S.O.S. Band’s “Take Your Time (Do It Right)” with spacey synths and Latin-house-flavored drums for a feel-good, irresistibly danceable effect. But it’s the euphoric “Jump,” featuring Nelly Furtado, that could prove to be Flo’s biggest hit to date. Together, Flo Rida and Furtado build up the momentum, playing a game of Simon Says with listeners, commanding audiences to “jump,” on the song’s kinetic hook, while Flo sticks to his lothario schtick, with quips like “Can I get on your hot air balloons?” peppering the song’s verses. Even when he slows down the tempo, on tracks like the R&B-laden “Shone” and the Ne-Yo collaboration “Be on You,” Flo Rida manages to keep the energy high.
Sadly, things get low when the Miami representative steps out of his lane and takes on heavier subject matter, like on the Happy Perez–produced “Never,” an ominous track about all the things to avoid doing (“Never think suicide/Never steal/Never lie”). The JRock-produced title track befalls a similar fate, thanks to Flo Rida’s awkward introspection. The melodrama hits an all-time low on “Rewind,” a schmaltzy, guitar-driven cut that attempts to capture the pain stemming from the passing of friends and loved ones, featuring an unnervingly whiny Wyclef Jean on the hook.
There are no delusions of grandeur, however, and Flo Rida only flirts with the notion of serious, message-driven rap on a few tracks. Instead, the hitmaker sticks mostly to club-friendly fare, and for the most part, draws upon his musical roots. —CELIA SAN MIGUEL