It’s been two years since Australian rapper Dylan Joel released his mixtape That’s Good. It was everything you’d expect a mixtape to be, using heavy sampling from outside sources to make catchy hip hop tracks; appearing to be a normal album from the outside, but without the cohesion that they usually have. Authentic Lemonade, however, is the opposite: It’s a concise package that follows a similar hip hop style with jazz and gospel peeking through quite often. There’s nothing that has the immediacy or novelty factor of the mixtape track The Cool Kids and its sample of Popular from the musical Wicked, but it’s got enough character to make up for it.
The appeal of Authentic Lemonade comes from its old school influences: The jazz part of the album strikes its peak with Swing, with the first half being a straight jazz arrangement based around the pulsing double bass, piano and trumpets before moving into a more hip hop oriented instrumental in its second half. What’s Good is instead a complete gospel track, right down to the chorus of singers backing Joel up, while Ain’t You leans heavily on reggae influences instead.
These are the three themes that the album utilises, keeping the feel of his older sampling work through the extracted gospel and jazz elements that seep into the remaining eight full tracks. While there are a few songs on the album that don’t follow these roots, they find other ways to stand out: Dear Baby is easily the best song the album has to offer, with the sparse percussion and trumpets of the verses and the booming percussion of the chorus playing against each other perfectly to make something easily enjoyable without relying on overproduction; Blank takes on a throwback R&B sound that fits the album’s themes, but has an identity of its own that stands out in a positive way. Outside of the five mentioned songs, the album doesn’t inspire as much excitement; it’s a solid collection of songs, but they don’t always offer enough to make them stick in your mind once you’ve finished listening.
Authentic Lemonade is a solid collection of songs though, and feels like a fitting debut album that stays true to his style while branching into a slightly different direction. The album does have some serious high moments, but these moments also tend to be what make the surrounding songs less engaging. At the end of the day, Authentic Lemonade falls somewhere in the middle of the pack rather than rising to the top, featuring many great ideas that weren’t quite executed as well as they could have been.