Rapsody

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10min3990

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.

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THERE’S nun more annoying than a female that raps about being a female who is a rapper. It’s in the ilk of old niggers spitting a bunch of remember raps-rhymes about how they were leaders of the game aeons ago.

Thank rap gods, Noname is neither. She can’t be classified an OG since her latest project, Room 25, is actually her debut album. She released her first mixtape two years ago, the critically acclaimed Telefone.

From the jump, you can feel Phoelix’s influence on this project. Dude has the executive production role in the album and officially features on two tracks. Because of this, the project is more musical than Telefone. It’s kinda bizarre that this is only Noname’s second project.

In the first track Self, she says this project will makes you question your reasoning on religion, relationships and even Kanye. But it’s her second that caught me, where she raps

Mr. Money Man, Mr. Every Day He Got Me

Mr. Wifing Me Down, Mr. Me-Love, Mr. Miyagi

Miscellaneous, Mr. Molly Inside My Sake

Incredible, incredible emptiness in my body

Heaven’s only four-feet tall, I set my ringer to it

Fucked your rapper homie, now his ass is making better music

My pussy teachin ninth-grade English

My pussy wrote a thesis on colonialism

In conversation with a marginal system in love with Jesus

And y’all still thought a bitch couldn’t rap huh?

Maybe this your answer for that good pussy

I know niggas only talk about money and good pussy

The Chicago rapper always spits shit that make you ponder on the extraterrestrial, without forcing it down your throat. Because of her poetry background, Noname always prioritizes the bars, but her Achilles heel is her monotonous flow. She isn’t the overly sexual Nicki Minaj, nor is she rambunctious and hella ghetto as Cardi B, drops bars as a Rapsody but maintains her uniqueness. Her flow is unconventional than most emcees in the industry.

But her music ends up sounding the same, even though it talks to a variety of things. On Ace, with Saba and Smino, Noname holds her own with some of her humorous lines-she has a great sense of humour which always suprises me  because she seems a serious individual.

But because of her flow, she doesn’t lure your ear as Saba and Smino’s verse. She sounds dull next to these colourful rappers. This was the song where she flexed about being a dope all-round artist, but it also presented an opportunity for her to show us the ace up her sleeve in terms of flow. But dololo. The Dillaesque beat on Don’t Forget About Me sounds tailor made for Noname’s nonchalant flow.

This is lullaby music and bumping this album on a long drive to the other side of the country would be enjoyable. It’s good music. Every time I hear her rap, my ear itches to hear that old school Chance The Rapper. This is probably because Chance introduced the world to Noname.

On Montego Bae with Ravyn Lanae, she sounds like a woman out of high school more comfortable with her sexuality and knows herself more than she did when Telefone came out. On her previous album, she spoke about a lost lover on the disheartening Bye Bye Baby, but sounds a happier damsel on Montego Bae.  Noname’s music feels like a hot cup of coffee on a cold day, enjoying it in a cosy warm bed. The track With You captures this feeling and is so relaxing, shame it’s a short song.

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5min1911

If a Black Thought verse on a feature is us eavesdropping, then Streams Of Thought Volume 1 is a sit down alone with the man to hear him speak his truth, albeit brief.

The best thing about hearing the Philadelphia rapper outside of his crew The Root, is that he’s not tied to a particular theme or subject and always raps with the ferocity of a Rottweiler unleashed from a cage to a dog fight. This is what you get in this five track EP. He rides these 9th Wonder and The Soul Council beats perfectly staying in pocket, raping with so much authority.

I felt misled by the title when I first heard 9th Wonder vs. Thought. But after a careful listen, what became clear was the studio being a ring, 9th fighting from his MPC and Thought with the pen, with only one mission; to give us a good art fight. And it was.

Dostoyevsky with Rapsody is just the perfect Hip Hop song. Much like the rest of the album, the production is on par with the raps drenched in gritty, dirty drums and kicks. The sample chopping was neatly done leaving room for the melodies. In a verse on Dostoyevsky he raps…

Cash rules everything, I just wanted a taste of it
Fast food hurrying, saving time, not wasting it
Self-saboteur, speaking it to my paramour
Torch rappers like I’m igniting the aerosol
Maintaining the wherewithal that’ll embarrass y’all…

Rapsody is no passenger on this either. In her verse she spits…

I swam with crocs, fished with sharks
I never popped charts, but I know I’m popular
I was built to run the game, I came up playing guard
With young niggas between 5’5″ and 6 foot 4…

Slick as Styles P’s verse was on Making a Murderer, I think a Talib kweli or Pharoahe Monch would’ve complemented the beat and Thought on this track.

These albums are getting shorter than an episode of Atlanta and listening to this project I believe the trend is ideal for lyrical beasts as Black Thought. The raps are just enough, leaving you with desire for more- and rather that than having a kat trying to outrap himself throughout the album. But short as it is, there’s cohesion and much purposefulness to it.

Thank You is probably the closest thing to The Roots thanks to the Quesloveesque drums from D’Angelo’s It Ain’t Easy which was sampled here.


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