IN honouring Denzel Washington at the 47th AFI Lifetime Achievement Award Gala Tribute this year, actor Mahershala Ali said “…your influence, your reach transcends race without ever denying it…” Fitting words for a thespian who’ll go down as one of the best to ever do it. Rapsody’s latest album EVE, and her other previous work in fact, displays how much this black female’s art transcends gender, without denying it.
Something rappers who are female tend to get tripped by is the novelty of females in the rap game. You find sisters only rapping about being females who rap, which more often than not, comes off as a homily- not music. Like how the typical “underground” rapper would bog you down with how the mainstream is being manipulated by a secret society and that the biggest artists are actually aliens in human form-all of this without telling you their story and making actual music. But Rapsody has mastered the art of music making and storytelling. When listening to her music, what’s between her legs isn’t relevant and you’re there listening to a dope ass kat. But her sex is unquestionably significant to everything and very much unmissable.
Poignantly titled EVE, Rapsody’s third album is more special because she titled each of the songs with names of powerful black women. From Cleo (the character from the movie Set It Off played by Queen Latifah), Oprah Winfrey to Nina Simone. She paid homage to these women and all others in the globe in the best way she could.
Till this day I think her previous album Laila’s Wisdom is universally underrated. I couldn’t fathom her returning so quickly, with something so rich in sound, lyrics, and concept. Plainly put, I didn’t think home girl could top Laila’s Wisdom.
Ibtihaj is named after Ibtihaj Muhammad, who was the first Muslim woman to wear a hijab while representing the US at the Olympics where she took silver in fencing. Rapsody gives nods to strong female emcees that came before her on the song, like Lady of Rage and Roxanne Shante- and taking a leaf from their book, she shows her bravado and says ain’t an emcee on this earth that make me feel afraid. GZA’s verse has that nice old school feel, thanks to his flow…with D’Angelo vocals complementing both rappers.
There must be something about Rapsody’s chakras because whoever she features, the genuine chemistry is always palpable. Whether it’s Sojourner with J.Cole, Oprah with Leileki47 or even Iman featuring J.I.D and SiR. In an interview with Sway, she said she wanted Cardi B to be on the track Whoopi. The bouncy beat produced by Khrysis would’ve suited Cardi’s energy. Rapsody’s beat and collaboration selection is like that of a producer; she’s quite decisive in that space.
The opening keys to Hatshepsut took me to church and even when the beat comes on, the warmth of the song remains. It would be wrong to say Rapsody got chowed on this joint because of all the love in the song, but hearing Queen Latifah rap is hella refreshing and inspiring. Her verse was on some Big Sis’ tip not only for Rapsody, but the youth.
Even living single we connected by the tribe Was raised by a Queen, know how to be one And love one and raise a King When he’s older I’ll describe how to love ’em Queens come in all shapes and colors Though we sit on thrones we don’t look down on each other I learned how to rule from my mother and my aunties Got the blood of the Asante I could be Cleo or Ghandi to protect mine It’s peace of mind, word to Jersey I’m a giant, a Queen’s pride stronger than the lions Connected by alliance, sisterhood The day you try to test me, look homie I wish you would Open doors for the ladies as a Queen like I should That’s why I’m Queen Latifah in every village, every hood And I’m good, and every city worldwide And why I been reigning for the last twenty five So all hail the Queens and the next ones to arrive Came out of Jersey with naughty dudes and hella drive Just another day above ground working my thighs, we runnin’ it Member the days me and ‘Pac, we had some fun with this When I would bust you dead in your eye, that’s called humblin’ Been holding the torch, I don’t fumble it I’m a child of God versus son of men, tellin’ ’em
I enjoyed Rapsody’s heartfelt letter to black folk, especially us black men on the track Afeni. It’s a timely song looking at the issue of Gender Based Violence in South Africa right now. The emcee drops knowledge about how men should learn to treat all women with the respect and love they would their mothers and sisters.
EVE cements her name as one of the best to ever do it. If we’re talking top emcees in the game right now in the mainstream, Rapsody’s name should be mentioned with the Coles and the Kendricks.
Previous Return of The Dreamers instalments had the make-up of a mixtape, the soppiness of a demo and were lethargic as those preseason warm-up matches in sport. But Revenge of The Dreamers III is purely a case of third luck’s a charm for J.Cole and the Dreamville squad.
The first ROTD was released in 2014 with the follow-up coming in 2015. The projects left one with a sense that Dreamville was just testing the waters. But this current shit here slaps, quite hard.
I’m only realising this as I write, that we were actually conditioned to expect more than we got from the previous projects, by the marketing gimmick Dreamville pulled earlier this year. They publicly invited artists they wanted to have on this project, on social media. I ain’t an artist and I’m not even in the US nogal. But those invitations didn’t only leave one excited, but just wana be in there…even nje just to witness the sickness. I can bet you my speakers that a shit load of artists, in the US were green with envy.
“Cole was like ‘man we should make invitations’ and then I was just like damn that’s actually kinda genius. We literally got it out to people the day we got here, we were supposed to do it ahead of time and then that day, we just stared seeing people posting, posting, posting,” said Ibrahim ‘Ib’ Hamad, President and co-founder of Dreamville speaking in a the documentary Dreamville Presents: REVENGE.
The album featured 34 artists and 27 producers, this is out of the 343 individuals invited to record it in 10 days.
“That shit worked out crazy like, people hit my phone, everybody wana come and everybody’s welcome at the same time, you know what I mean,” said Cole. “For me it was like, literally a golden ticket typa situation.”
Months flew and the excitement fizzled, but somehow, sporadically reignited by a J.Cole verse on other artists’ joints in the months leading up to now. But the eagerness for ROTD III came back to us quicker than Babes did to Mampintsha, after watching the enticing Dreamville Presents: REVENGE.
Sonically, ROTD III is refreshing…looking at where Dreamville comes from as a label. They were, and are largely still seen as one of the torch bearers of the Boom-Bap sound and that real rap shit. This album has various sounds, but each song never veers off what Dreamville seems to represents, realness.
It’s symbolic that Dreamville hosted a slew of artists, and even in the web of sounds, no one forgot that these dreamers are tryna pay revenge. The stable has grown in sound and artistry…the songs uniquely represented the folks at Dreamville. The seemingly organic chemistry they had with the outside artists, isn’t unusual for Dreamville because the stable has an assortment of artists, who hail from different parts of the country.
The weed joint, 1993 produced by Elite is so Wu-Tang. I’ve been listening to Buddy’s music for a year or two now, and his energy on shit is always palpable. He doesn’t rap on this track, but serves his purpose on the song. The blunt is seen as the microphone, and vice-versa to which Buddy is the conductor. Cole and JID complemented each other well with their verses, coming correct.
JID is Dreamville’s poster boy and he further proved why on this project. Ladies, Ladies, Ladies produced by Kal Banx has JID musing over past lovers alongside the big bro from ATL T.I. It’s a smooth ditty, delivered in an attempted to sound hard, but both kats come out sounding dope cute.
I would’ve liked to see Cole, Ib and Top Dawg’s reaction soon as they heard LamboTruck. I saw Reason as just a decent kat before this joint, but his cadence and pen game was above par. So was Cozz…and they both sounded deliberately humorous. The two West Coast kats’ comfortability with each other reminded me of the chemistry between East coast’s Method Man & Redmad. LamboTruck also represents the kindship between Top Dawg Entertainment and Dreamville, far more than just the business.
Ari Lennox, Dreamville’s empress, owned her space on the project. Self Love featuring Bas and Baby Rose is one of those songs that would sit well on an Ari project. She got swallowed up though, by Ty Dolla $ign on Got Me– if that beat was America, Ty Dolla $ign would be the white race. Omen hasn’t shrugged off sounding like Cole, but the Friday Night Lights/ The Warm Up Cole- nice, but still on the come up. The track is produced by Mdbeat, Deputy and OZ.
Bas can be a bit sluggish when solo, on his own shit but Abbas Hamad rapped out of his skin on Down Bad, rapping with stable mates JID, EARTHGANG, J.Cole and 21 Savage’s cousin Young Nudy.
Sacrifices, Wells Fargo, Oh Wow…Swerve are other songs worth mentioning that give the album more body and gravitas to even dare call it an album. There are songs the alum could’ve done without, like Swivel and Sleep Deprived .
It’s natural to wonder what will happen to the songs we heard in the documentary, which were recorded in the 10 days but didn’t make the 18 track cut. And I suppose it’s also natural to sit there and think why they didn’t invite so-and-so…because of the vast possibilities and expectations that come with putting together such a project. So it is what it is.
But Dreamville gave dreamers hope with this one, without being melodramatic about it.