In the summer of 2017, Kendrick Lamar’s glossy pop single“LOVE.” echoed through cars across the country. The smash hit was an ode to meaningful love and featured a triumphant hook from then-unknown artist Zacari.
Now signed to Lamar’s label Top Dawg Entertainment, Zacari attempts to forge a path independent of the prolific MC. With the release of his EP Run Wild Run Free, Zacari fails to leave a lasting mark on listeners.
The EP isn’t terrible, but it simply doesn’t say enough or present enough originality to warrant further interest in the artist’s growing repertoire. The project explores themes of coming-of-age, self-reliance and relationships.
The sonic world these tracks inhabit was carefully curated. It is clear the producers’ goal was to neatly tie together these songs, no matter the lyrical subject matter. The problem is that they might have been too successful in doing so. What results is a production so commonplace that it fails to intrigue listeners. Further, multiple tracks borrow elements of the aforementioned collaboration that launched Zacari onto the map.
These tracks, “You Can Do Anything” and “Ten Outta Ten,” blatantly plagiarize the sounds of “LOVE.” This sentiment of replicating other music is further revealed in the lyrical content of the project. “Ten Outta Ten” not only borrows the sonics of “LOVE.,” but also its messages. “You’re ten outta ten, you’re what I wanted,” parallels Lamar’s lyric “sippin’ bubbly, feelin’ lovely.”
The attempt to soak his music in accessibility continues on other tracks.
On the Lil Yachty-featured “Young & Invincible,” Zacari covers the exhausted themes of youthful ignorance and its associated bliss. The production is nice enough but again, does nothing to leave a profound impact on the listener. Lyrically, it is highly reminiscent of other songs sharing the same subject matter, often those that have sent the message in more effective ways. Notable is Khalid’s sleeper hit “Young, Dumb & Broke.” Lil Yachty adds nothing more than atmosphere to the track, calling into question the reason for his feature in the first place.
Zacari continues to borrow from other artists on the single “Lone Wolf.” The track features a shoutout to Usher’s “Burn” in the same vein of Kendrick Lamar’s “Sherane a.k.a. Master Splinter’s Daughter,” though he doesn’t do it nearly as successfully and stylishly as his label mate.
At a concise 21 minutes, the EP is easy to take down — so easy, in fact, that it’s instantly forgettable. Structurally, the opener and closer do well to incorporate themes of growth and independence, but they aren’t enough to sandwich a collection of such neutral tracks.
Zacari still has a lot of developing to do. His voice is strong and unique, but his content lacks originality and innovation to breakout in the growing landscape of contemporary music.
A Kendrick Lamar feature or high-streaming single are no longer enough to bolster an up-and-coming artist. To guarantee a spot among the talents of TDE, Zacari will need to step it up.