Local hip-hoppers, RapReviews.com salutes you. It’s been a while since I expressed my enthusiasm for this publication’s predilection to be all over the map, and while even more could be done, we continue to cover a wide variety of rap releases despite limited resources. Probably not everyone appreciates the service to the same extent, and sometimes even I am perplexed by weekly updates dominated by obscure records. Ultimately, however, it’s all a matter of perspective. Let’s take rapper Facts. None of us outsiders expect Utah to provide us with quality rap music, but if Salt Lake City was my home, I’d be proud to read about a representative of my local scene on an international platform, even if I was the type of reader who is quick to let these RapReviews dudes know that my hometown or homestate have much better artists to offer.
Let’s admit it, you and I don’t know anything about hip-hop from Utah. Even Facts himself has to concur that despite that it is “like any other state in the west,” Utah “got no rappers in the game with any respect.” It’s not up to me to predict if Facts will be that rapper to help the Beehive State rise to national prominence in the rap world. But it’s my job to let you know that, as evidenced by Facts and his solo debut “Classic Agenda,” worthwhile hip-hop exists out there like everywhere else. Facts of course knew that all along and expresses his pride in “U.T.A.H.,” confessing over a festive, Latin-tinged track by Rick One: “This is the state that I’m from, the state that I rep / and I’ma big it up till the day of my death.” Beaming, “There’s more to it than just skis and slopes / we got DJ’s, producers and MC’s that are dope,” Facts dedicates the song to Utah’s hip-hop scene, only to take his support even a step further by inviting a bunch of his colleagues slash competitors onto “Salt City.” Brisk’s uptempo beat gets you as amped as the MC’s, and if you have but a minimal understanding for local hip-hop, you’ll be moved to hear these nine rappers get in line for an all-star track reppin’ their city.
If that was all that there is to “Classic Agenda,” you’d all be excused now, because what’s the point in listening to expressions of local pride you can’t partake in? Being the complete rapper that he is, Facts makes sure his repertoire is deeper than that, lyrically taking a look at himself and at the same time making the listener face the mirror, pursuing an approach that encompasses both the individual and the universal. All the while, apparently, never writing any of his lyrics down (which puts him in the company of Andre the Giant and Jay-Z, who both made similar claims). Conceptually, “Night Fall (In Vietnam)” and “Time Will Tell” stand out, as the former is written from the perspective of the father who fights in Vietnam, returning as a hazard to his family, while the latter is written from the perspective of the son who has to deal with the traumatized, drug-addicted war veteran. While these songs relate real-life events and are filled with personal sentiments, Facts can also step outside of himself to tackle topics ranging from relationships (“Tryin’ to Breathe”), to substance abuse (“12 Step Program”), to can’t-get-no-satisfaction consumerism (“Floor to the Sky”) in an intelligent, eloquent and where appropriate humorous manner.
The creativity never runs amok, his love for his daughter not turning obsessive like in Mr. Mather’s case, but expressed in one single verse (“Kadence”). Finally, there are the rap-specific tracks, and even here Facts has more to offer than your average indie cat going on about how much he loves rap and how much he hates other rappers. “I got a lot to prove when it comes to this rap shit,” he humbles himself on the title track, but still looks to school students of the game:
“You better be open minded when you rhymin’ for kids
cause underground only makes up one side of the biz
You gotta put in hard work, have skills and lots of dumb luck
And get your own style, son, there’s only one Slug
There’s only one Ghost, only one DOOM
but you keep bitin’ tunes when you’re up in your room”
Technically, Facts is easy to understand, knows how to deliver a hook and drops a lot of well written verses. To some he may fall into the category of weak-voiced white MC’s, but fact is that his animated but solid flow and his biting vocal tone make Facts come across like the experienced rapper that he probably is. (He was a member of The Agents, who were voted Utah’s best hip-hop act by Salt Lake City Weekly and won a Salt Lake grammy – SLammy – for their debut, plus he plans to participate in three more projects this year, teaming up with fellow MC Johnny Utah as the Knoitalls and with producer Rick One as The Avalanche Movement.) Punchlines are not precisely his fortÃ©, but the man has an excellent taste in beats and access to a pool of producers that are able to submit excellent beats. Finale takes the lead, providing Facts with the rock-infused “Now U Know,” the energetically rumbling “Walk the Walk (You Never),” the pensively trickling “Get It, Get It,” the softly thumping “Kadence,” or a ’90s rap update of ’70s rock on “Time Will Tell.”
While no two tracks sound the same, musically “Classic Agenda” is still a cohesive effort, the producers never going for straight throwback tracks, often managing to insert a modern touch and making sure the balance is kept between sampled and original elements in their attempt to attain that classic anthemic hip-hop appeal. A thoroughly traditional rappper, Facts masters what in some circles is referred to as true school hip-hop. To some, that equals dogmatic, unspectacular music, but there’s always gonna be that one release to prove them wrong. With its supporting cast of good guests and skilled beatmakers and its confident, charismatic leading man, “Classic Agenda” is that true-to-life hip-hop record to break free from any imposed restrictions.