Published Apr 30, 2021
There’s always pressure when a young artist releases their first musical project, but there’s even more pressure for the follow-up. Sometimes, that may result in experimentation and a radical departure from the debut. But in the case of Icebreaker 2, the follow up to Lil Berete‘s 2018 debut mixtape, the rapper’s experimentation is broadening but still familiar.
With the release of a follow-up project comes the expectation for growth. While the first Icebreaker featured fellow Toronto rappers JoEazy and Acerrr, Berete extends his reach to an international audience by enlisting features from UK rapper Nafe Smallz, Louisville’s 2KBaby, and Detroit’s Sada Baby. The pandemic has held many artists back from releasing their projects, but Berete has shown he’s willing to put himself out there to the world, no holds barred.
That willingness to bear it all is very apparent from the moment you press play on intro track “Lost It,” a song in which Berete melodically raps about his pain of losing loved ones to the streets and his internal struggles to be able to love again in fear of further loss. It’s an emotionally charged track that serves as a powerful intro into Berete’s upbringing and what he’s had to endure at such a young age to get to where he is today.
Much of the mixtape’s subject matter is centred on what you would come to expect from street rap: getting to the money to escape the hood, the harsh reality of losing friends at a young age, and the means by which kids chose to cope with their reality. It’s here that Berete falters slightly on Icebreaker 2, as multiple tracks touch on the same subject matter. While this is to be expected of a young artist on only his second major project, it does still manage to create a bit of listener fatigue.
However, the 20-year-old Toronto rapper is able to mitigate much of the fatigue with his sheer talent and versatility. Berete’s biggest strength is in his ability to use his cadence and flow in several different ways. In a sea of artists that tend to sound similar, Berete’s vocals are a refreshing tide. The sonic range from “War Ready” to “Painallgo” to “Big Man” is a testament to how good he is today, and what magnitude of potential is possible for him in the future.
Berete’s level of versatility also shines on each of the songs featuring other artists. “Murda” sees him crooning about learning from mistakes in order to make it in music alongside 2KBaby; on “No Distractions” he flows effortlessly over the jingling beat before dishing it off to Nafe Smallz; “Big Man” sees Berete adapt to a synth bounce beat that’s more catered to Sada Baby’s sound. It’s a step in the right direction that shows what he’s capable of when working with new artists on new sounds.
Icebreaker 2 shows Lil Berete’s growth as he attempts to broaden his career internationally. This concise and well-crafted mixtape ought to get him the attention he’s looking for.
(Southside to Northside)