The Experienced Listener Presents: For Everything, by RapSody
Too soon? You be the judge… After The Return of the B-Girl, I was planning on reviewing RapSody’s second project, Thank H.E.R. Now to keep things nice and orderly. Until I came across her new video for A Crush Groove. And lost my freakin mind. I decided to jump back in my lil time machine and fast-forward to the present. The past can wait.
RapSody’s third release, For Everything, is an awe-inspiring project from top to bottom. Jamla’s Soul Council covers the production under the close eye of 9th Wonder and with contributions from Eric G., and other producers. Needless to say, this project is wordplay saturated. It’s also very soulful, in a way that I haven’t heard in a long time. You feel like you really know RapSody personally after this project. She exhibits her storytelling abilities more than once as you journey through the 14 songs. And where there’s no storylines, there’s punchlines. (On that note, Mayweather, Pacquiano, May 5th. Knock on wood.)
Begin. When I hear the breathy voices of what might as well be bayou spirits emerging from the mists of the intro track, Pace Myself , my mind instantly references You May Die, the first song on OutKast’s ATLiens album (my favorite album of all time). So I grab the headphones. As the harmonies become clearer and more developed, I hear deeper voices that put me in mind of Boyz II Men’s Michael McCary, aka ‘Bass’. All of a sudden, the ethereal soundscape is shattered by a kick drum; an IMPOSSIBLE kick drum, with a swing so heavy that, as a rhymesayer, I feel totally uninvited to this event.
But then, RapSody appears. And she makes sense of the rhythm in a way that only a small class of MCs could. It’s on. In the song, RapSody expresses her desire to maintain her stride; not overextending herself, not wasting time. She cleverly pens:
…What can I say, she’s definitely got the right influences. And she definitely has her eyes on the prize as she continues:
Pushing me closer to retiring young/
It ain’t safe like dumb niggas wit guns/
I gotta pace myself, Reggie Millo/
I want respect, checks, and Brillo/
Clear pad out somewhere in South Euro/
Know it’s closer than it seems, side mirro/
Somebody needs to paint a picture of RapSody in stride, because I know some acclaimed MCs who aren’t that fire when their mouths are running full speed.
Moving on, The Autobiography of M. Evans is a very “and if ya don’t know, now ya know” type of track.
I was born in the 80s to Margaret and Roy Evans/
Named after a dame came on TV after 11/
Days of Our Lives, an opera at age 7/
She was makin straight A’s in school with lil effort/
Based on the evidence presented, the ‘M’ stands for ‘Marlena’, as in Marlena Evans from the soap opera Days of Our Lives. Upon further investigation, however, it’s not Marlena, but Marlanna Evans who’s been gracing us with verse after verse of flat iron. And RapSody makes certain that we all know who she is with a historical profile of her years in the rap game.
9th used to coach me; Kooley would help/
Before he had a label deal he took me under his belt/
Gave us free beats, even sent to Pharrell/
A few of my jams, but he passed, cuz I wasn’t that well/
I came a long way, now I’m givin’ ‘em hell/
…Wow. Just cuz you’re a nerd doesn’t mean you do always do the smart thing, huh? #IMJOSHIN. Aside from the history lesson, there are some good jewels dropped in this song as well; RapSody doesn’t shy away from mentioning her academic excellence. Much needed, as the Black community still, sadly, struggles with embracing intelligence. Like it’s something to be ashamed of. Lovin’ that; go hard, young lady…
Speaking of love, the first time I watched the video for A Crush Groove, I caught a few seconds of it, hit pause, called my younger sib into the room, and told her we were gonna experience this momentous occasion together. It’s important that we recognize a hip hop classic when we hear one. From the intimate rap and lyricism to the production, this track is a problem. And I love the way RapSody’s voice comes right through the headphones, too. Reminds me of way back—- waaaay backin 2001— when I would be on the phone with a certain ladyfriend of mine at crazy hours of the night into the morning…
On that note, my homeboy Swim says that I’m too biased to pass judgment on this track. And he might be right. Because I remember when my ‘One that Got Away’ was on the phone putting this oblivious country boy from Augusta up on the Jay-Z and Nas beef. RapSody spits:
We used to stay up late togetha/
Cooling to the radio like whateva/
Who’s betta, Nas or Jay-z/
You always said Nasir, I always said Jay-Z was betta/
The thing about it, though… this song is supposed to tap into the experience of the listener. I mean, it really takes you there. So, if you’ve been there before, you can’t help but be biased; and if you haven’t been there… that’s pretty tragic, actually :-\
The title track to Rapsody’s mixtape, For Everything, is a song that’s all about obligations. Again, Rapsody lets us know what she’s come from and what she’s come through. The importance of this track is not in her demonstration of lyricism, but it creates pardon for the repeated references to family and upbringing on this mixtape. Not that it’s a bad thing, but as you listen through the tracklist, you pick up on the similar themes and references. And right when it flashes across your mind, “Didn’t she already talk about this?”, you remember that that’s the whole point of the mixtape. It’s not hard to tell, family, heritage, and legacy are heavy on RapSody’s mind. She even ends the song by saying:
Dedicated to the children, they are everything/
So let’s do some math. If the mixtape is called “For Everything”, and, according to RapSody, the children “are everything”, then the transitive property of equality says that this whole project must be “for the children”. So yeah…
And honestly, I wish I was a kid in middle school again and listening to the next track, Ain’t Worthy. As the knight-in-shining armor type, I’ve got craaazy love for this track. Mom and Pop raised a gentleman and a nice guy who puts EVERYBODY on a pedestal; RapSody comes along in this track… and just straight mushes that pedestal, on both the male and female side of the equation. She exposes unfit brothas in these scorching lines:
These n!ggas ain’t worthy of love, ask em/
I’m for real, they fake down to they accents/
Silly roughnecks, uncool with no Common Sense/
In they CD changers, in they whips, or they craniums/
Then she comes back for the ladies:
These skeezers ain’t worthy of love/
They use your kids just to bother for attention and love/
I told ‘em… they full of everything in my colon/
I keep an eye on ‘em like they keep an eye on ya scrotum/
*What a FRIEND! What a PAL!*
Tryna catch ya drivin like Paul Wall/
Real slow hopin they can get in and cake off/
It aint’ ya birthday, ain’t worthy of love/
So leave ‘em where you found em in the back of the club/
…The cold shoulders I coulda turned by now if only I had heard this track sooner. SHUCKS. But it’s good to hear rapper GQ give his testimony after RapSody’s done. I get happy when I hear about other cats not being taken advantage of. Go hard brotha.
And the sound doctrine doesn’t stop there. My thoughts upon hearing the track 4:20P.M.? …FINALLY! When’s the last time you heard an anti-get-high message in hip hop? I’m somewhat ambivalent on the weed issue, leaning more toward the non-smoking side (but very accepting of the medical uses of marijuana). What gets me is how weed-smoking has become so much of a routine and recreational activity; it’s not even special anymore, lol. In 4:20 PM, RapSody asserts:
It’s like everybody smoke but me/
Everybody broke, but got money for weed/
Feelin good; getting high/
Wouldn’t know, I’m too busy getting by/
I ain’t got the time; I ain’t got the wealth/
I ain’t so brave, I’m too focused on my health/
…Dag, I thought it was just me! While I got ya’ll listening, let me tell you like I tell my students: if you live a lifestyle where you feel you GOT to smoke weed to get by, that means you’re living too fast. It’s kinda like taking diet pills because you eat too much… just stop eating so much.
*This has been a public service announcement from The Experienced Listener for Surgeon General.*
Enough of the enlightenment. Let’s get back to basics for a sec…
A is for aiming steel…
B is for at your neck…
C I am not missionary; just like that middle sex…
With opening lines like that, you already know that ‘F’ will be for “effortless; effin’ this track to def til there’s nuffin’ left…” Produced by Eric G., ABC/Guilty is a two-part track that goes from an A-to-Z cipher to a female version of …. Alphabet cipher joints are certainly nothing new… but RapSody is, and her delivery is sufficient to make this track worth listening to. On that note, I’ve gotta spotlight this one line:
’S’ for the state of the situation…
As a lyricist, this is the kind of kill move I live to see. In case you didn’t catch it, the line is a wordplay: she substitutes the letter ‘S’ for the word ‘As’. A lot of MCs have the content and have the flow, but not many have the “masters’ finish”—that little, almost insignificant set of technical skills that the average listener is gonna miss at first. That capacity to produce a lyrical warning shot where it’s least expected, just to keep people nervous and observant.
On top of all that, and the instrumental to ABC has true grit that really bares its teeth each time RapSody reaches the end of a verse. One of my favorite beats on the album by far.
Guilty is the second segment of the two-part track. Over a nice sample, RapSody bewails the good intentions of her possessiveness and jealousy in a relationship. RapSody often mentions her studying of Jay-Z; in my opinion, this is the track where you most hear the results of her studies. Her delivery is very “New York”, as in emphatic, strong, and thickly enunciated. Even for her, because she regularly spits with distinct clarity and delayed articulation. Not a bad track; perhaps it just makes me nervous because I’m a dude, and no dude likes the idea of being under surveillance. (Whether guilty OR innocent, by the way.)
A Cold Winter… I’m not gonna get much into this track but, aside from having Freeway featured on it, I love the idea of pairing RapSody with author of The Coldest Winter Ever, Sister Souljah. When I was younger, just hearing the name Sister Souljah evoked feelings of deep respect; I would see her in pictures, and the intensity in her eyes would stay on my mind like the moment just after a camera flash. IN a strange way, I feel that same energy from RapSody. She’s got conviction, and an integrity that demands her conviction not be dismissed. On that note…
The day I first heard the For Everything mixtape, I I tweeted the following: “@rapsodymusic All Black Everything is the ANTHEM; come this February, this should be in CONSTANT rotation, PERIOD.”
And I’ve never been more serious. Before I could get into the other 13 tracks good, All Black Everything came out of nowhere and held my undivided attention. It’s a song about commemorating Black heroes by wearing all black apparel. Seems simple enough, but RapSody has that Jay-Z flash again and, similar to what Jay did with Girls, Girls, Girls, RapSody turns a simple idea into a conceptual feast; I’m already planning to grapple up some all-black apparel in solidarity with this move. The hooks goes:
All Black Everything…All Black you know…/
All Black in the name of all my Black heroes/
All Black Everything All Black polos/
All black medallions, yeah; all black…/
And, of course, some of the apparel to occupy:
All Black jeans, cause I’m never gon slack/
As well as:
Black scarves, represent scarves and nooses that they hung us by/
But now they hangin on my words, deuces/
Serious note, this song has the potential to ignite change come this February; let’s commit to bangin’ it out whatever’s in the trunk til then.
“Here comes a change, and another change, and another change…” I was drawn in by the bass of the filtered sample at the beginning of Rock the Bells. And after hearing RapSody’s take on the hip hop phraseology… I’m just glad she’s a Jedi and not a Sith. Or we’d ALL be force choked to sudden death by now. In a lyrical exercise kicked over a xylophone, Rapsody throws pause out of the window and lets the lyrics come rapid-fluid; I say ‘rapid-fluid’ because rapid-fire don’t flow like this.
Jamla camera, I snap like ginger cookies and monster with stanzas/
Stand us, they can’t Walker Texas, I’m rangers at ranches/
Outta they range…/
And the featured cat on this track, Kendrick Lamar, must have four lungs and no heart. He’s quoted as saying:
(After having dropped 16 bars with only one measurable pause, that is. My lungs collapsed on his behalf.)
Finally, we reach the end of the mixtape, as RapSody offers us the track Dear Friends. Check this set of bars:
Crickets at stars, now they callin me the same/
Sayin that I‘m not far as Raekwon; I told ‘em explain/
So in the studio, bright lady I be goin ham/
And still get butterflies at shows just like Marsha Am/
The common thread? HUMILITY. Here it is, RapSody could flatline ANYBODY in the industry lyrically. Yet, she admits to having room to grow, accepts and invites criticism, and approaches the stage with the deepest of appreciations…
I understand America is #17 in education, but what more evidence could one possibly be looking for to prove that RapSody deserves acclaim at this point? Tell you what tho; I left a few tracks out of this review just for those with the nerve to want more. So if you’re not convinced, get the mixtape and peep it from start to finish. At best, the styles of the rappers you hear most over the radio are cute; RapSody’s style is for mature audiences who see through gimmicks and cheap punchlines. This writer says it’s time for her to blow up. And the fact that she hasn’t yet is not a commentary on her as an artist, but a commentary on us as listeners. Earwax is whack. And so is intellack.
(…I’m sorry; dope lyricism inspires me to write rhymes and create new words and stuff :-\)