When people think of Virginia, the thought of Colonial America might form, or perhaps images of trees and sprawling forests, maybe the fantastic hills that the “Birthplace of the Nation” has to offer. There is however, a select few people who know the urban legends that spawned from the Richmond underbelly and Nickelus F is one of the vocal heavyweights that put Richmond as a footnote for musical ability. The Freestyle Champion, plague of locust flooding, production destroying, Nickelus F comes swinging with a melodic mix of fresh cuts on his latest record, Triflin’.
From the earliest days of 2000, Nick Fury/Sweet Petey/Nickelus F, what ever you want to call him by, each moniker is only a chapter in his life that shows a natural progression. He was a freestyling champion on BET Network’s “Freestyle Friday’s” and eventually worked himself up to studying with superstars like Drake and even some of the underground masters like Lil Ugly Mane from his sprawling career, Nickelus F has proved time and time again that he can master any microphone, studio, production, and still look calm, collected, and unable to break a sweat.
He begins his personal recollection with the opening track, “Laced Weed.” With a skit/intro that features Nickelus F and a police officer discussing a traffic stop over “no front tag” on his car, the officer then later explains, “The part, the are you live in is not such a good area down here, so when people have violations you know we stop just to make sure everything’s good.” Nickelus F then jumps right into the hook of “Laced Weed” where he almost speaks instead of rhyming and explains, “I leave go out, get to juggin’ unless you got a better plan. Step back and let that boy cook ‘em, whip whip with the left hand… Grew up to be a clever man, T-R-I-F-L-I-N.” The production is a solid mix of piano and 808 drums but does not come swinging in full force for an opening. It is more of a gradual build into some of the later tracks, but Nickelus F still delivers clever wordplay and some interesting one-liners. His clever flow resides into the following track, “Walls of Jericho” and the anthem to his city, “Richmond.”
Sweet Petey follows the subtle energy and eventually crushes it into a full-frontal rush on “Walls of Jericho.” The instrumental sounds something similar to Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) with these smoky piano chords that are eerily similar to the personification of criminal mischief. The track also matches well with Nickelus F’s rhyming style where he attacks almost relentlessly with lines that describe, “She say he ain’t in church enough, I pray, done prayed my whole damn life, but that don’t seem to work enough so I’m grinding, grinding, making’ moves…” and even “Got a clip in the ashtray, put it in my mouth, that shit be jumpin’ like a baby kangaroo from out the pouch.” He also drops a classic, Nickelus F charmer, “Smell my fingers, you can tell it was some wow. She said I can hit it raw, I threw the hat like Kung Lao, what now?.” Nickelus F has always managed to release a steady flow of comedic lines while giving off the impression that he is not trying to overthink anything. His lyrics are not the vocabulary assault, but they are still relatable and complicated enough to stand on their own.
On his following anthem, “Richmond” is a beautiful track that taps into F’s upbringing and how he made his way into both hip-hop and life. “Richmond” is also a double track that switches beats midway to create a total style alteration that flows effortlessly and keeps Nickelus consistently adapting to his production. He first explains, “It’s where I first learned to smoke the grass, it’s where I got my first piece of ass. We used to shoot dice between the class, and if you don’t pay up we gon’ beat yo ass.” To then using a slight intermission where the percussion is more focused and the production features warped voices that echo almost like ghosts of the track. This style switch fits Nickelus F’s lyrical style as well as he describes, “What you know about dark days, pointing that gun at yourself. Tell me everything about life, man you can blame nobody else…Swear I cried out to God begging for help, and then he gave it to me in the form of a mirror.” Nickelus F uses “Richmond” as more of a personal statement and does an outstanding job with connecting his past experiences and his future ideas into one consistent track.
Out of the fourteen total tracks that Nickelus F delivers, there is not a single track that feels like a filler, or even out of place. He does an amazing job of creating a surreal album that demands to be listened to from front to back with no skips in between. He destroys every track in his own stylistic choices and creates a personal connection to the listener without sacrificing for wordplay or experience. Doing the impossible is something that can almost never happen, but Nickelus F has proven time and time again that he can shatter the boards of hip-hop, pick up fifty-two points with ease, and make other artist seem silly in the craft.