Barbeques, pool parties, hot chicks, cool dudes and everything in between: welcome to the world of New Fad Zoo. The Atlanta-based rap group’s second album, FERAL II: WILDLIFE, is another trip down the rabbit hole of expertly crafted music. Just like on their 2011 debut record, New Fad Zoo blur the lines of genre. The band expertly marries thoughtful, sometimes funny, lyrics with top-notch musicality. These guys can do it all: write catchy hooks, pivot from jesting to serious philosophical musing, and create a musically diverse album.
I was initially skeptical when I saw that band had chosen to name their second album FERAL II. The idea of sequels, in any media, usually conjures thoughts of desperate cash-ins and creative bankruptcy. Fortunately, FERAL II: WILDLIFE takes the focus and energy of FERAL and expands upon what New Fad Zoo has already done. Not only did the band avoid the dreaded sophomore slump, but they managed to surpass their first record in every respect.
The delightfully cheeky album opener “Party Animals” asserts dominance over the listener with its funky groove and big cat growl. New Fad Zoo tosses this goodtime party song off effortlessly, as if writing a fun song were breathing. The moody “Strobe Lights” explores the darker side of love and the desire for fame and has a hauntingly cold, electronic sound that recalls Kanye West’s 808s AND HEARTBREAKS. Meanwhile the album closer “You Are Loved” is a tender ballad that manages to combine late 1980’s Billy Joel and Outcast (and that’s a good thing). Any band would be lucky to master one style, New Fad Zoo is adept at all three: modern party song, moody electronic rap, and classic R&B.
FERAL II presents the listener with the complicated worldview of talented young men. The band’s attitude towards drugs, alcohol, and women schizophrenically seesaws over the course of the album. Like all good heroes, the boys of New Fad Zoo are complicated–sometimes falling into the trap of objectifying women yet also acknowledging on the track “Triangle” that: “if I had a daughter, I’d surely be pissed if a nigga dared harmed her, but that’s the world we be living in.” The song interestingly asserts that there are three groups in the battle of the sexes: Men, Women, and Bitches. The song’s hook is sung by the angelic Melanie Annabelle who proclaims, “Women hate bitches, bitches hate men, men want the bitches, and women want men.” New Fad Zoo don’t pass judgment other than to point out that “it’s a fucked up world.” Indeed.
New Fad Zoo’s first album had what I proclaimed to be a billion dollar single with “Love Is Wild.” That song sadly failed to get snatched up by Madison Avenue ad executives or the numbskulls at Clear Channel. I foolishly didn’t think they boys had it in them to craft another perfect single, but once again they surprised me and minted another $1B song: “Luv Is.” The hauntingly beautiful hook, provided by Melanie Annabelle, and the awesome Beatles shout-out sold me on the song. After listening to “Luv Is” a dozen times I’m confident in saying that this is the best song not on the radio today.
It’s easy to gush about FERAL II: WILDLIFE because like its predecessor, the album is the clear result of what happens when talent people pour their hearts out into their work. There isn’t a single track that feels dashed off or undercooked. New Fad Zoo clearly loves crafting, not just making, music and it shows. No track sums this up like “Want It So Bad.” Part inspirational anthem, part pep-talk to themselves, “Want It So Bad” is the answer to the question of whether or not there will be a third New Fad Zoo album–and I can’t wait.