The relationship between rap and dance music has always seemed like a mutually beneficial one, with the two genres sharing both an overlap in material and a diverse communion of ideas. Yet in some cases, like the insistently mushy material on Flo Rida’s Only One Flo (Part 1), a heavy reliance on dance elements can begin to reek of desperation, seeming like an underhanded attempt to sneak otherwise tedious songs into clubs and onto airwaves.
It’s fitting enough that the album, which contains a track called “Respirator,” seems like a sustained, failed attempt at CPR for an inevitably flagging career. After hitting #1 with his first single, “Low,” in 2007, and scoring nearly as big with the retread “Right Round” last year, Flo Rida seems mostly out of ideas. While his flow remains crisp and his lyrics not especially bad, he still seems like a secondary fixture on his own songs, taking a backseat to producers and guest rappers.
His ability to manufacture hit songs without any seemingly direct role in them may explain the amount of money and effort that his label has poured into this album, which is flush with names as diverse as David Guetta and The-Dream. But it’s hard to tell what exactly has caused songs like “Who Dat Girl,” produced by a seemingly foolproof combination of Max Martin, Dr. Luke, and Benny Blanco, or “Why You Up in Here,” featuring Ludacris and Gucci Mane, to come off as so pallid and flat.
It may have less to do with the lack of a strong central figure to unify this material than said material’s attempts to cover up that hole. Flo Rida makes up for his lack of presence by cloaking himself in heavy streams of friendly dance beats, creating a smooth continuum between this rote backing, his Auto-Tuned voice, and the silky raps he inserts between them. The fact that he sings many of his own hooks might seem like a useful skill, but the combined blandness of his singing and rapping only increases the overwhelming blandness of Only One Flo, an album that seems insistent on reminding us how dispensable he actually is.