It’s the way earthy collard greens sop up the buttery cornbread that mom dukes used to make in that’s cast iron skillet. The sound of fried fresh off the pole brim that pops used to bread in cornmeal and Old Bay. Your auntie’s red devil cake with the cream cheese icing; the sweetness inducing partakers into that glycemic high afternoon nap. The necessary funk of those chitterlings before Big Mama removes the membrane. This is what Rapsody’s latest “Laila’s Wisdom” feels like. Homemade music providing sustenance to your soul, and for the benefit of your being. Here’s a look at some key tracks of this tour de force.
The title track powered by producer Nottz is propelled by a piano that sounds like your local worship directors Sunday offering, and an attention getting rim shot that rivals small arms fire after a high school football game. Snow Hill’s finest helms the mic with speed and precision assuring us that even though she appears to be a masterpiece in the making; the rapper is no overnight celebrity. It took a lot of bars, beats, and tears to become a complete emcee executioner. “Power” starts out so sixties that you expect Pam Grier to show up and pat her afro puffs and say “Show-Ya-Right.” The track proceeds into a more bouncy baseline, and a great buzzing sound that I can’t identify. Is it a guitar with an effect? A sound from an obscure sample pack? Let’s call it what it is…Ninth Wonder. “Ninth” starts the song in full on “Pats-bloitation “music then transitions with a buzzing sound that more than makes the record. I used to call Ninth Wonder the Pete Rock of the South, but with the catalogue that he has amassed it might be disrespectful. The man needs no comparison, and is beginning to have no peer. Rapsody begins about the power of the …. Let’s just say the part of woman that has Rob Kardashian pockets a little lighter, and the female anatomy that has Tiger sixteen over par, and doing the stanky leg on police dashboard cameras. She concludes by stating what real power is to her: creative control, success through individualism, and self-acceptance. Kendrick blesses us with a verse that asks about the origins of power. Do we attain it through the past, present through privilege or poverty? I don’t know. But it was excellent.
On the Kashif produced “Pay-Up” the emcee talks about ladies who tax men for “bloody shoes” and other name brand materialism. Midway through the funky tune Rapsody channels her inner “Badu” and takes these “Tyrone’s” to task for literally taking advantage of a woman’s worth. Is that Heather Victoria breaking hearts on the hook? We see and hear you lady. That voice is like Tahitian Treat out the speaker! “Nobody” is just an All-Star Game with Rapsody running the point with super descriptive wordplay ranging from social justice, the clergy, and that age old conversation: mainstream versus underground music. Can we take a moment to appreciate? “I get winded by the weight of it all.” That’s on a T-shirt. That’s a tattoo. It’s written on a cap before a graduate puts it in the air in victory. Anderson Paak wails wonderfully on the chorus. Professor Douthit is giving his usual genius lessons via his Maschine. Top five dead or alive Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter of “The Legendary Roots Crew” comes out the woodwork, and guest lectures an inspiring verse about career, loss and motivation.
“Black and Ugly” is a beautiful composition devoted to television, and print media’s exclusion of certain physical representations. The N.C State Freedom Tunnel rocking artist gives us a personal verse about her struggle with hue and body shaming. A reference to Vanessa Huxtable’s Fiancé makes it all the more special. The head banger “OooWee” has the rapper spitting brilliant, boastful, bars that would make the most seasoned rhyme smith second guess challenging the Jamla/RocNation artist’s skills.
This project is a triumph not only for Hip-Hop, but for female artists who value “quotables” over the status quo. “Laila’s Wisdom” isn’t evidence that the artist is coming for the coveted crown of The Queen of Hip-hop. “Laila’s Wisdom” reveals that Ms. Evans is coming for all involved.