You might be tempted to call emcee Locksmith’s new project, The Lock Sessions, an album because it is of that same type of caliber and quality, but from the start in the opener “Black Hole,” he states clearly that his new album is coming, so this Landmark Entertainment release that dropped on September 29 is more likely a mixtape, to Locksmith at least. And even if it is a mixtape, a ten track/thirty minute-long mixtape, it’s a high standing one at that. The Richmond, California-raised rapper, who has taken turns as a producer, freestyler, member of duo Frontline, battler and collaborator throughout his career so far, is as daring, fired up and fierce here as he’s ever been before, probably more so than at any previous point. After his first album, 2014’s A Thousand Cuts, he showed vast amounts of wisdom and maturity in Lofty Goals from 2015, and now, in The Lock Sessions, he takes aim at the wayward rap game of late, as he holds falloff rappers accountable for their music, taking these pseudo-rhymers and their huge company sponsors to the woodshed. Plus, there are other separately themed gems in the mix as well.
Much more than just a showcase of great vocal stamina and great rhymes, The Lock Sessions starts early and often with the urgent messages. The heavy-banging intro “Black Hole” smashes dumbed down commercial/mainstream hip-hop with a series of wonderful, sledgehammering lines. Locksmith first states his declaration of independence (“I know the journey is bigger than me / I will not submit to this industry / I write my songs from a genuine place”), then describes the current aboveground rap music industry (“they manufacture an art with no soul / look in that face, it’s a desolate hole / as long as I’m breathing I’ll keep making music, I cannot create under corporate control”), follows that up by speaking on the typical fake rapper (“you’re a slave to the playlist / all you do is make songs that are tasteless / for a label with a boss that is faceless, face it, nigga you a pawn you don’t say shit”) and lastly gives an example (“if they ask you to sing, you gon’ say, ‘what song?’ / looking for your bread, they gon’ say, ‘move along’”).
More excellent wordplay and guest Mark Battles mark “Epic,” where Lock is relentless and holds on to values and honor. “Koolio” reveals the tricky politics in the hood and in rap and exposes the truth and motives behind a lot of crooked modern day phenomena (“corporations see us all as investments,” “I’m scorned if I speak out”). Locksmith’s refrain is a promise – “I ain’t gon’ sit and say what you wanna hear, I’ma just keep it comin’ in front of here.” Plowing and pummeling through without cease, Lock provides his most weighted line of “Grime” when he comments on the scum of the game rapping, “they just keep rapping ‘bout money and bottles and models and models and hollows and how they just copped a new yacht in the grotto but what is it worth if you shallow?” Fred The Godson and Mally Stakz spit hard street bars in “No Rules,” and in “No Manners,” Locksmith details how the major music business treats vulnerable artists susceptible to manipulation and even seems to go after culturally retarding online publications… “they gather the young and impressionable and pressure them through material sums they can profit from, every profit plummets at some point but at some point, niggas got to be responsible but their response is bull;” “from these writers, makes it hard as an artist to get behind sites, like they forcefully force-feed with a forced fee and force greed instead of a subject matter with some substance rather.”
All hardness and no heart? Not the case. Lock takes time to deal with his struggles with love in “Nowhere” featuring One.Coco, and with David Correy he delivers his very own ode to mom with a new flip of “A Hard Knock Life” in the bumping lovely groove known as “Go There.” Rebecca Nobel joins in on “More Lessons” with its great advice from Lock plus his closing shoutouts. The name-list is a little lengthy, but how often these days do you hear shoutouts? It’s some time just for him but considerate too and if Lock is not well connected, I don’t know what you would call it. With a variety of beats, hardcore rap and tons to say plus faultless features, The Lock Sessions is very likely Locksmith’s riskiest project to date but also his most fruitful thus far. Few rappers dare to touch the topics Locksmith has so confidently and ambitiously gone head first into here. True enough, fans will not want to wait for his new upcoming studio album (Olive Branch), but they should be happy to, so that Lock is under no pressure to hurry or rush another potential masterpiece.
4 out of 5 stars