With Encore releasing his sophomore album on Hieroglyphics' label come high expectations to make more classically acclaimed songs like "Waterworld". On "Layover" it is clear that Encore is an emcee with skills. His flow is powerful, yet smooth, and he has really solid verses. "Zigga Zigga" and "Traditional Slick Talk" are definitely the best tracks on the album with Jake One and Architect producing the catchy upbeat songs respectively. At least half of "Layover"s songs are hot partially due to Jake One and Architects slick beats. The album seems to be Encore's attempt at moving from the underground to somewhat closer to mainstream though.
Last fall, I was at the Vancouver Hiero show in which Encore opened. Perhaps his touring and live show explains how odd some of the hooks and tracks are. They appear intended to be performed in front of an audience. The hooks on some of the songs don't fit the feel of the album, the feeling of a hype-man sounds at points like Encore the emcee has been replaced. An example of this is when Encore yells, "Yeah say it "Yeah!" Say it "YEAH"... C'mon bounce, c'mon bounce", it works in front of a live audience, but if you're chillin' with your Walkman on the bus, it doesn't cut it.
Personally, skits annoy me, even if they 'fit' with the album. "Layover" suffers from this. One particularly long skit goes on about being stuck at an airport, possibly acting as an explanation of the title, 'Layover'... Without the skits, this album is pretty darn good. Encore's flows suit his beat selection and his Hiero guests fit well with the feel of the album. Perhaps more help/guests would diversify and make for a better album in the future. However, this album definitely does grow on you, by the fifth listen, I increasingly liked it.
"Traditional Slick Talk" and "Real Talk" shows Encore's excellent West style flow. On these tracks his storytelling is comparable to a modern Slick Rick.
The production is solid, but not spectacular. By this I mean the production and overall songs lack innovation not pushing the envelope at all. On the impressive side of things is "Real Talk" where Encore approaches a lady, trying typical pick-up lines then discovering being genuine is important to finer females. The beats on "Real Talk" are excellent, with upbeat horns, handclaps and keyboards. The beat on "City Livin" is a highlight; it sounds similar to something reminiscent of early Wu-Tang. "Chocolate Popcorn" is another good track, with the drums and bass getting funky. Although the hook, yet again is weak. Clearly it would be suitable for a live show, but on the album it just doesn't work. The album closes with a track featuring a mediocre beat which I wasn't feeling, but Encore still rhymes well, "We choose catfish over caviar and this is escargot flow... two years out the game and I stay vain like my varicose". So two years later Encore shows maturity lyrically, but fails to impress because of weak hooks and production choices.