Revisionist history is a dangerous dream. We tend to reminisce about the past of things we love, and only remember the good parts. If we don’t love it, we remember the bad. We, Hip-Hop connoisseurs that belong to the beloved “80’s Babies”, romanticize the 90’s like it was all dopeness and nobody ever kicked a wack rhyme. Especially when we’re comparing that era (including the early 2000’s) to this era of “MCs”. Truth be told Silkk the Shocker had hit records in the 90’s. I’ll leave it at that. But, when you think of that era, the dopest artists, shows, comedians, and movies… do remember how that FELT??? THAT is how Rapsody SOUNDS.
Music is just what feelings sound like. The Aretha Franklin “Young, Gifted and Black” sample just gives me the “we’re going to be ok” feeling FROM THE GATE. Not on some superhero effect, but just that sample with the strength of Rap’s unique voice, the fact that she’s not dissing other MCs, and she’s not rapping about her ass in the first 8 bars, made me feel like HIP-HOP will be ok. MCs be on notice, Rapsody’s first 18 bars didn’t have a single wasted word or predictable gimmick. That’s a rarity in the game now in general but even more so in a mainstream female MC. Every woman doesn’t have to be Nicki Minaj or be against her. We’re in the information era, with all the access to media and news, we need a vast amount of dope intellectual perspectives more than ever. Especially in our culture. Hip-Hop has notoriously been our CNN. What made our “Golden Era” so amazing was not just the bars and the lyrics… it’s the fact that everything in black entertainment was operating at such a high and potent level then. It was the feeling of it all. Everybody was wearing the right thing, not the same thing. There was a sound, a MC, and/or a group for EVERYBODY. There were different approaches to how to spit, how to joke, how to market, how to think, and how to live. There was balance.
My chances of losing was higher than divorces. The intro title track, “Laila’s Wisdom”, immediately puts you in a place that feels like you’re returning home for grandma’s cooking. It was the proverbial, “kicking in the door”. Now imagine dropping your DEBUT album in the same 12 months as Jay-Z, J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Big Sean, and Wale. Then imagine doing that and having a strong case for the best rap album out of the bunch. I don’t know how thorough your imagination is but, now, imagine doing that after they told you that you weren’t good enough. After they told you that you didn’t have enough sex appeal. After they told you that singles meant more than albums. Khaled was right about they and I’m right about Rapsody. Even with all the words you’ve already read, I’m still finding it hard to put into words how much this album feels like my favorite Fresh Prince episode. How much it feels like Love Jones. How much it feels like Lauryn Hill. How much it feels like Little Brother. Hailing from North Carolina herself, and being signed to fellow NC Native and Little Brother member, 9th Wonder, that’s probably the only feeling I got from this that I wasn’t surprised about. At the same time, I can’t tell you how much Rapsody, doesn’t sound like anybody else I’ve heard! With a subject matter so diverse, she needed more than some 808’s to execute this opus. So many ingredients in the Gumbo that I’m still not tired of it even after the hype has died down. This microwave era doesn’t “live” with records anymore, but I made a conscious effort to start doing so. Rapsody made it easy for me. That’s why I shunned at writing an immediate review. This isn’t even a review. I didn’t come here and break down bars. I didn’t come tell you how she stood next to Black Thought and it didn’t become “this is Black Thought’s record”. I didn’t tell you how she did that twice with Busta who’s always the master of the ceremony. This is a thank you letter. This is a P.S.A. This is Premier scratching. This is an announcement that if you’re looking for dope music, music with today’s freshness and yesterday’s integrity, pick up “Laila’s Wisdom”.
Thank you Rap!