Updated: May 17
Marlon Harris is a 22 year old creative from Chesterfield, VA who is currently making moves in the RVA music scene as a producer, engineer, and artist. Some of you may know him as Rva.Marlon, who was featured on my Producer of the Week segment earlier this year. Since our last interview, Marlon has honed in on his producing skills and reinvented himself as an artist under the stage name AR.LO!
Today I will be reviewing AR.LO's debut album titled 202 which dropped exactly one month ago! The project itself consists of 14 tracks and is approximately a 47 minute listen. To keep it short, this project is a rager album that incorporates various genres such as rap, metal, and EDM. This album is filled with features that help elevate this project even more, and all of the songs were produced, mixed, mastered, and engineered by the one and only AR.LO himself!
Even though the overall listening experience of 202 is hype and high energy, the meaning behind the album is quite personal and intimate. Prior to its release, AR.LO was working on this project for two years. The songs are inspired by the music that he grew up on and loved, and they are still his major influences to this day.
Keep reading to hear more about my thoughts and breakdown of each song as well as some words from AR.LO himself!
G.GLEN begins our listening experience with an intro that is simple, sweet, and emotional. The beat is focused around a mellow guitar that accompanies the narration of AR.LO's father recounting the start of his son's musical journey as a child.
READY TO GO has a seamless transition from the intro that makes you appreciate the small details and anticipate for more. The song itself has a slow flow initially, but the features on this one are a perfect addition because it completely changes the feel from mellow to hype.
The beat provides support by being hard hitting and slightly smooth because of the guitar. I admire the way AR.LO builds beats as a producer because there are so many different elements and layers that you can pick apart, but they just blend and sound so well together.
The mixing and mastering for ANIMAL really did it for me. I always joke around that AR.LO is the "king of effects" when it comes to mixing and mastering, but it's true! The way he utilizes effects such as subtle cut offs or delays can turn any simple song into a rich and complex listen.
This song made me realize that I could probably listen to a whole song of AR.LO singing the same line over and over without it getting repetitive because the mixing will no doubt make each section sound unique.
Vy: What was the inspiration behind this project, and what message did you want to give to listeners?
AR.LO: Honestly, I made this project just for me to listen to and enjoy with my friends. I wanted to give listeners an experience that they can't get anywhere else. I wanted to show people different type of beats that you don’t normally get out of people in this area. There are GREAT producers in the Richmond area, but I just like to hear different things and I think that is what sets me apart from everyone else -- the experience you receive from me.
"I keep telling people that I make music for headphone users!"
The message I want people to get from this album is to enjoy it how ever you want to listen to it, whoever you want to listen to it with, and where ever you want to listen to it. Have fun when you play this project!
OTDUB is when the album starts to pick up and the rager vibe is in full swing! This song has one of my favorite flows because it's catchy and easy to sing along to. AR.LO is confident and setting things straight with these lyrics, and Fluffy the Alchemist is the perfect feature! His smooth vocals added a more edgy and intense vibe to the song, and I am definitely starting to see how the various genres in this project are coming together. Overall, this track reminds me of a winner song or victory anthem. (Also, the harmonies on this one are insane if you listen closely!)
"I know we taking forever, but we on the way.”
ITS A TRIP is a great breather after the previous song because of its chilled out beat. This was the one that made me realize that AR.LO can sing -- like he was actually hitting those notes! He literally sang the hook at least 3 times in a row, and like I said before, the MIXING AND MASTERING transformed 4 simple lines into something magical to your ears. I also enjoyed the last 30 second outro. It was just super trippy hearing it through my headphones and I could really see AR.LO's producer and engineer side shine through.
If you remember my POTW interview with AR.LO then you would know that he was a drummer before anything else.
With that being said, the bass and 808s in CHANGE is literally insane and the beat comes in hot from the jump! Feature wise, it was interesting seeing AR.LO take the singer role rather than the rapper role because it really just shows how multifaceted AR.LO is as a person. The finishing touch was the way the ad-libs fit into the pockets of this song. It really brought it all together, and personally this song would have to be my title worthy pick!
“If I could go back, just rewind / There’s a couple things that I would change."
I thought the bass line was crazy in the last track, but THE RUN is even crazier. It's a pretty complex beat if you listen closely. Even though this entire project is definitely a night time listen, this one feels like the most essential song to bump through your car speakers. I can just imagine blasting this song and literally feeling the bass travel through my body.
M.COVE is an interlude with a simple beat that gives a nostalgic essence to the track. The narration is sentimental as AR.LO's mother recounts the story of her son's love for music, which started before he was even born. I actually cried a little listening to this interlude, it was just so vulnerable and raw. I love some good musical storytelling.
After some mellow songs, AR.LO switches it up yet again in JUST STOP. The song has a futuristic and rockstar type feel. The flow directs the beat in this song which forces you to really listen to the words. I enjoyed how he touched into his higher register for this song. It makes him sound youthful, energetic, and even a bit arrogant. I was left speechless at Tune GG's verse too -- like who rhymes "just because" with "restaurant"?!
ROUND 2 is probably my second favorite song off this album, and it also has the second best build up beat wise in the whole project. The mixing is crisp. The autotune on the other songs added a certain edge to the overall project, but I loved the way the verses sounded much cleaner on this one. AR.LO is so versatile that after all those features, I thought his second verse was a feature. In reality, he dominated this song all by himself. The second verse was literally ROUND TWO!
Vy: Describe your album using one sentence!
"This project is just a small portion of what is to come." - AR.LO
I'll start off this last section by saying that RUN IT BACK feels like that one diss track off the album. The bars are hard, the energy is high, and the delivery is unique by being serious yet playful. I loved the condescending tone with a flow that just flows over the beat. Both artists played off of each other's musicality and complimented each other well. I could tell they were just having fun!
"I catch the pass like a running back.”
The beginning to ON MY OWN is so groovy and makes you feel like you're in a slow mo edit.
This song is even more energetic than the last one too. If the last song was a diss track, then this is a flex track. The matter of fact tone coupled with the easy to follow flow contrasts the previous song very well. As the song progresses, the change in energy in the 2nd verse (along with the mixing) literally made my jaw drop. All I could think to myself was how could you elevate a song that’s already this lit?!
You know how I said that this is a rager album? Well don't let the slow piano accompaniment of STAND THERE fool you! If you've been keeping up, then you know that AR.LO loves to constantly change up the vibe of the song, like at least two to three times. The buildup in this song is so explosive, and the chorus reminds me of summer nights -- so freeing and upbeat! The female vocals by GOODMORNINGPINO also gave a new element to the project by bringing the chorus to life.
We're finally reaching the end of our listening experience. The last song, titled WHAT AM I DOING, is undeniably my favorite song. I knew this one would be my favorite when he showed it to me in the studio before it even dropped! This track has one of the best and most catchy hooks off the whole project. In particular, I think the buildup in this beat highlights the overall vibe of this album because it reminds me of a rave moment.
Marilyn also has to be my favorite feature off the album simply because her vocals added a whole new otherworldly element that would be impossible to create otherwise. After the crazy breakdown and effects, the groovy guitar solo provided by Seamus fills up the last minute of the song, and it's just magical. I can confidently say that the guitar solo with literally take you to a higher place. Transcend you even. It was the perfect way to close off the album, kind of like "This is who I am. No more words are needed, so just listen.” This song demonstrated not only AR.LO's love for music, but his appreciation for it by letting the guitar finish the story.
Vy: If the audience could only listen to one song off the album, which would it be and why?
AR.LO: If I were to tell them to only listen to one song, I think it would be WHAT AM I DOING because of the crazy beat drop that's in it. Marilyn’s vocals came out amazing, and Seamus went dumb on his guitar solo at the end. It just feels like a total masterpiece to me.
I have to say that I appreciated the complexity of each beat the most. As a producer, his beats are so dreamy and otherworldly, and the dimensions to them are rich. AR.LO constantly utilizes the tension and release tactic of music that constantly leaves you on your toes.
I also enjoyed AR.LO's ability of storytelling through this project, especially the way he incorporated his family into it as well. It was amazing to see each element from the album come directly from AR.LO's recollection of his life and love for music.
After listening to the entire project, I can confidently tell you the trick to recognize a beat made by AR.LO. As I've said before, AR.LO is a storyteller. His beats tell a story by starting off with an intro that layers each instrument one by one. He loves constantly switching up the vibe throughout a song, whether it be with a crazy build up or breakdown mid song. The outro then almost always plays out, taking away each instrument one by one until the song ends and transitions to the next one. It's such a unique listening experience!
202 is definitely something you should listen to at night on the weekend, possibly driving through the city or speeding down the highway with some friends. Whether it be for the beats, lyricism, or abundance of features, it's no doubt that 202 will creep up in your playlist. I'd catch myself replaying a song because of fire the beat was, then next thing you know I’m singing along word for word!
Be sure to stream 202 by AR.LO and stay tuned for my next album review!
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Written by Vy Truong, @avocavy on IG