A sharp tongued emcee from the East Coast, the brother of a rap megastar and a hardened trio of veteran artists are the main attractions as we open March ’17. In order of discussion, they offer incredible technique and wisdom in the case of MC Bravado’s Hip-Hop album, stylish pastiche in Taylor Bennett’s Restoration of an American Idol, and abrasive hip-hop strong-arming in War Porn by rappers Everlast and Sick Jacken with producer Divine Styler.
Hip-Hop by MC Bravado (self-released)
NYC to Baltimore rapper and English teacher MC Bravado may not be on a top tier stage but he is inching ever so close to one at the moment. Having performed at SXSW 2016 and opening for artists like Nappy Roots, Onyx and Chris Webby, he’s a heartbeat away from catching a big break, thanks to his loyalty to traditional, authentic principles of rapping and his persistence and hard work. His latest project, the straightly named Hip-Hop, explores a lot of the preoccupations of your typical standup, young adult millennial – the longing and search for love, character flaws, family values, etc., but MC Bravado likes to switch it up and use the mic as his voice box’s own personal punching bag from time to time.
MC Bravado is a backpacker, in the most respectable sense of the word. When he’s not on random subjects, his swift upright delivery touches on emcee-skill development, personal value, confused girl problems with vanity, conformity and high expectations (“Unfiltered”), gratitude for dad (“Dead Man’s Dream”) and here’s a new one for all the single guys who’ve tried everything – romance with a homeless girl (“Homegirl”), not to be taken very seriously in the last case. The album has some generic music-plus-drum combos and less than several forms of great controversy but Bravado’s sincerity and vocal vigor and the spunky guests, Nitty Scott, MC and Pacewon among them, make for an unforgettable experience.
4 out of 5 stars
Restoration of an American Idol by Taylor Bennett (Tay Bennett Entertainment)
Taylor Bennett, the younger brother of Chance The Rapper (by two years), isn’t riding on the coattails of big bro since he has projects dating back to 2013 and has been rhyming for years prior, yet on the other hand, his sound and style could stand to be a little more unique, less like Chance’s. His new project is titled Restoration of an American Idol and provides a chill ride overall, albeit with a low-profile promulgation of some undesirable norms and social trends.
Responsibly rejecting obsolete crime-rap and gangsterism, Taylor sets tones that are at points positive, warm, ambitious and sagely to musics of similar flavors, but he never says anything that challenges the establishment and actually reinforces it with several soft subtle remarks, denouncing niacin and cigarettes of all things in “Intro (The Kid’s Alright),” broadcasting lascivious promiscuity and exuding an unchecked sexual aggressiveness numerous times further in.
Ignoring those stereotypes for a moment, we have on the bright side a Taylor Bennett who’s trying to have some fun and sort things out on Restoration. Add to that some fine guests, notably Chance, Kyle and Raury and we definitely have an album worth commenting on. Taylor Bennett has drive and a pretty solid flow with stamina, but his new album is a bit immature and lacks any jaw-droppers that would otherwise make it more than simply a conformist’s exercise in style.
2 out of 5 stars
War Porn by Everlast, Sick Jacken & Divine Styler (War Porn Industries/DatPiff)
In order to get Everlast (from Rhyme Syndicate and House of Pain) and less urgently Sick Jacken (of Psycho Realm) back in rap, those two and experimental golden age producer Divine Styler have thrown together a backpack album of tough raps and thunderclap boombap, samples included.
War Porn as it’s called is rarely a criticism of war for being arousing to war-profiteering companies and such as one might hope (it comes close in last track “A Day in the Life”) but it is instead a lot of brutal rhyme-spitting of a macho militant texture that the trio believe is still very cool. Everlast and Sick Jacken with guests Termanology, Big Daddy Kane, B Real, Gravity Christ, Vinnie Paz and Rakaa Iriscience (Dilated Peoples) throw down traditional rap fare for their camps but very little that is unexpected or focused on differing concepts.
Every now and then they’ll drop some random verbiage on ancient cultures, religious symbols and the like, just for effect, but never as excellent as those that Killah Priest for example could bring in that department. Along with Divine Styler’s rigid crate resurrections, the whole procession is basically an exhibition of fair to good old-style rhyming, and as a matter of fact, that’s good for the kids these days to study. War Porn is a decent show of technique but it hardly ever bothers to be very fresh or innovative.
2 out of 5 stars