When Wordsworth came onto the scene back in the late 90s (appearing on tracks with Black Star and A Tribe Called Quest), his aggressive flow and rhyme scheme was among the sharpest in underground hip hop. It’s 2012 and not much has changed for the veteran wordsmith. It’s been eight years since his last solo opus, “Mirror Music” and the Brooklyn emcee is back again with “The Photo Album,” which is packed with both heavy weight lyricism and touching personal stories.
Wordsworth is lyrically as sharp as they come, and he has not lost a step since “Mirror Music.” His aggressive flow and intricate rhyme schemes are apparent on tracks like opener, “Destiny.” Hip hop heads will come for the wordplay, but the album also consists of some pretty deep and moving subject matter. On the Are produced “Coloring Book,” Wordsworth uses brilliant imagery, describing the colors of his neighborhood. On “The Oldest” he talks about being the man of the house, after losing his father.
Lyrically, you’re going to have a hard time finding many albums that match “The Photo Album,” verse for verse. But similarly to his debut, Wordsworth’s shortcomings taint what would be a great album, making it only a good, albeit a very good album. The production is a notch up from “Mirror Music,” but still isn’t as consistent as you would like for the caliber of emcee that Wordsworth is. The two Apollo Brown tracks “Joy and Pain” and “Vanish” are by far the two best beats on the album, and really bring out the blemishes of the lesser impressive production. Also there are a few hooks that are pretty lazy. “911” manages to spoil a pair of verses from Words with a downright awful hook from Torae, which is a waste of a promising collaboration. And “Betrayed” is another track that had promised until an awful chorus.
Wordsworth is a phenomenal emcee, there is absolutely no debating that. It can be argued whether or not he is more suited for group albums (ala Punch N’ Words and eMC) than he is for solo albums. But I think it’s pretty clear Words, despite some of his faults in beat selection and hook writing, has enough to say (and certainly enough skills) to release a very good solo album; even if it’s only once every eight years.