"Believers" works both as a genre-bending nod to loyal Mayday! fans and a nudge at naysayers the group hopes to convert.
On the first verse of “On That Jack,” Wrekonize of ¡Mayday! more or less lays out the excellent predicament that he and his group members share, with the following:
“But I’m not even sure which genre we claim / Too many styles for my own good, got mama to blame / I like Rock ‘N’ Roll, Hip Hop, Funk, Soul, and Rhythm / They can’t tell where we live, so um / Fuck the critics...”
¡Mayday! truly is difficult to categorize. Are they Rock? Are they Rap? Are they Pop? Are they all in one? Similar questions linger throughout their latest Strange Music effort, Believers. Still, what is very clear is that the group is a cohesive unit with a following that has allowed them to maintain independence, gaining notable co-signs from the likes of Tech N9ne and Lil Wayne. Believers is both a nod to fans who have been down and a nudge at naysayers the group hopes to convert. And it works as a successful endeavor on both counts.
¡Mayday!’s genre-bending bodes well on many occasions. “Shots Fired,” “HighRide” and the Irv Da Phenom-assisted “My Life,” for instance, are fine examples of Pop sensibilities in the group’s polished, melodic, upbeat, catchy-as-hell hooks. While still keeping those qualities intact, “Tear Shit Down” and “Marathon Man,” for example, showcase a great Rock influence in the crew’s musical style. And through most of the record, these Pop and Rock tendencies don’t necessarily overshadow ¡Mayday!’s Hip Hop roots. But peep “On That Jack” or “Shortcuts And Dead Ends” for more of May’s Rap work, and you’re quickly reminded that this is a Strange Music release with strong Hip Hop ties.
On that end, Bernz and Wrekonize hold their own throughout Believers’ twist and turns. Their raps, often peppered with internal rhymes and thoughtful patterns, are rarely compromised—something many genre-bending groups have struggled with in the past. This allows Believers to keep the Hip Hop flag firmly planted as the duo work together to craft their verses about several topics, avoiding monotony in flows or concepts. On “Shots Fired,” they’re a rapid-delivery version of Styles P and Jadakiss, trading bars while seemingly never taking breaths. When introspective, Bernz and Wrek truly bring the record home. This is clear whether speaking about rising from suicidal “dead ends” (“Shortcuts And Dead Ends”) or repurposing Drake lyrics to match the circumstances of their origin (“Started from the bottom and we only heard the doors slam") on “My Life.” The pair also prove their worth matching verses with Strange Music's most celebrated, Tech N9ne, on “Last One Standing,” proving that the pair can stand with some of the culture’s most acclaimed without losing a step.
Believers is another notch in Strange Music’s belt, one that explains why ¡Mayday! has become such a highly touted group. It’s an example of how a mash-up of genres can be executed well, without watering down all of the Hip Hop ingredients. It isn’t a straight-up Hip Hop record, but then again, as mentioned, it’s really hard to categorize it. Instead, it stands as a strong showing, even if done with an outside-the-box approach you can’t label. Now if genre-bending ain’t for you, this album may not be either. However, if a mind is open to different styles and various influences, then even naysayers may turn into Believers.