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by Mike Scarfo

Heartbreak is one of the most common experiences that humans share. Whether we have been on the receiving end of a breakup, or had to initiate one ourselves, both instances carry complex emotions of grief, anger, and potential regret. Regardless, there are often stages a person goes through when dealing with the grief aspect of heartbreak, especially if we feel we were the ones wronged in some way. Men, in particular (and speaking from a male perspective here) often lean on the strength of their egos in order to deal with pain that society tells them they shouldn’t show, or even feel. Ultimately this can debilitate the healing process, preventing men from accepting the mistakes they’ve made, while simultaneously stunting their ability to move forward. 

The new album HOPE YOU UNDERSTAND from Boston-based music artist Frizz Gualo is a raw, honest, and oftentimes jarring reflection of coping with infidelity and deceit. Frizz’s internal dialogue throughout the album embodies the emotional turbulence of his own ego as he finds himself stuck in a perpetual state of grief. The title track (which doubles as the opener) immediately encapsulates an eerie, somber mood with lush piano chords and spacey vocal harmonies as Frizz croons “conversations with myself / is there anyone left in the world who gives a f*** about me”. He expresses dealing with abandonment, backstabbings, and the damage that it can further ensue. And yet through it all, Frizz is able to look inward and reflect on the fear of attachment and fake promises that led to an inability to communicate real, authentic love. 

“NOT JUST ANYBODY” and “DON’T GET ME STARTED” continue a run of catchy melodic songs that showcase Frizz’s vocal range as a singer, particularly hitting a few beautiful notes in the hook of the latter. Both songs depict Frizz as being rather guarded, deep into protection mode where he feels the most safe. “2AM IN MIAMI” is when the real shift occurs not only from a sonic standpoint, but also topically; Miami, notoriously known for its unrelenting nightlife, ironically is not distraction enough as Frizz finds himself still reminiscing over this lost love, unable to let her go from his conscious mind. 

The booming bass of “FAKE CRAZY” is followed by arguably the most gorgeous instrumental on the album with “TREAT YOU RIGHT” where Frizz tries his hand at a vocal chain that reminds me heavily of the sound that Bryson Tiller coined in the mid 2010’s. But “TREAT YOU RIGHT” is much more stripped back in contrast, with angelic guitar chords whilst pitching his case to be the more rightful suitor of this particular love interest.

The album’s final four songs provide closure with an acceptance of circumstances, a desire to focus on the aspects of life that bring him joy, and ultimately find Frizz in a more lucid state. “EVERY DOG HAS HIS DAYS” is certainly a highlight, which features a “1, 2, 3, who the f*** shot cupid...” vocal refrain which is arguably the catchiest moment the album offers. “EVERY DOG HAS HIS DAYS” best represents the full range of emotions expressed throughout the project: frustration as a victim of infidelity, toxic defense mechanisms, astute confidence, and questioning past decisions. “STAY STRONG” sees Frizz beginning to find some inner peace, mainly with focusing on raising his daughter right, whilst leaving room for himself to heal through what he knows best, the music: time heals all wounds like a truth within a lie / cause it’s been years since my losses and I still break down and cry / I ain’t even into venting, but I spill it on the mic”. The subtle addition of the saxophone embedded into the instrumental is the icing on the cake, as this song is a personal highlight for me.

“END OF TIME” and “STRANGERS WITH MEMORIES” are the perfect pairing to close this album out: the high pitched hook of “END OF TIME” accompanied with a sense of desperation in Frizz’s vocal tone make this the clear climax of HOPE YOU UNDERSTAND, while “STRANGERS WITH MEMORIES” features his most poignant vocal performance in its front half, with an aggressive bar-out in its back end. It's arguable that this is his most impressive rap performance on the album. As much as Frizz has personally grown throughout HOPE YOU UNDERSTAND, there is an unfortunate sense of disdain in knowing that these scars can only heal so much. The harsh realization that time will inevitably start to taint even the fondest of memories is a bitter pill to swallow, leaving the listener to wonder if a broken heart can truly ever be mended.

Rooted in a sonic cross between hip-hop, R&B, & jazz influences, HOPE YOU UNDERSTAND boasts a multi-instrumental experience paired with strong, versatile vocal performances from Frizz Gualo, which ultimately create an elevated version of modern, melodic hip-hop. While this reflective and vulnerable journey can be unsettling at times, HOPE YOU UNDERSTAND is surprisingly relatable and refreshing. It doesn’t necessarily mean you always need to accept his perspective as correct, but all Frizz asks is that you have an open mind, and try to understand.

HOPE YOU UNDERSTAND is the latest studio album from Frizz Gualo. Recorded at Cybersound and Ugly Duck Studios in Boston, as well as True Music Studios in Rhode Island. The album was engineered by Nick Lancellotti and Daniel Babai (track 9 recorded & engineered by Frizz Gualo). Tracks 3, 6, & 10 co-produced by Frizz Gualo.

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