With mixtapes in hip-hop getting more mainstream popularity, sometimes the difference between a deeply produced mixtape and an album is confusing since they often appear to be the same thing. In the case of Saint Kris’s B.Y.O.B. (Be Your Own Being), it’s a mixtape through and through. The emphasis isn’t on the beats or production, but the man, Saint Kris, who is introducing himself and developing his audience. The opening track “Walk with Me” sets out his project in a lilting, friendly flow. There’s “no gangsta talk” and even a promise (with ambiguous irony) that this is “the most humble shit that you’ll ever hear.” Is there such a thing as self-conscious humility? It’s a reoccurring theme, like he says on the last track, the anthemic “The Average”: “This is for the people that actually listened to the whole disc.”
Saint Kris has talent, charm and the good taste not to grab at trends. It’s a strength that he’s trying to genuinely address his own concerns, like where he comes from. The weakest track, “No Stress,” is the one that sounds least like the rest of the album, and the most like a radio-friendly summer beach song.
Let’s say you had a friend who was really good looking, but they insist on wearing concealing sweatshirts, their hair back in a ponytail and huge glasses that cover their face. Still, you know if they dressed up it would be like the scene in She’s All That, where Rachael Leigh Cook walks down the stairs to go to the prom and all of a sudden Freddie Prinze Jr. realizes she’s hot. What I’m getting at is: Saint Kris’s mixtape B.Y.O.B. sometimes feels like a pretty girl with glasses. There is a lot of potential — you just might have to wait a little while to see it fully realized.
Four stars out of five.