The signs that Rapsody has been annointed “next to blow” are everywhere that you look. She’s the first female artist signed to 9th Wonder’s imprint Jamla Records, and at least half of the tracks on “The Idea of Beautiful” are produced by him. Given he’s one of the most important hip-hop producers of the last 15 years, endorsements like that come along once in a blue moon. Their own press release goes even further though, dubbing her as the PROTEGE of 9th, meaning for better or worse she represents her mentor in every way. Phrases like “impeccable craftsmanship” and “one of the most promising artists today” are thrown around willy-nilly to the point even the most open-minded of readers would start to raise a Dwayne Johnson-esque eyebrow at the hyperbole within.
Thankfully any fears that the case for her place in hip-hop have been overstated are quickly put aside once “The Idea of Beautiful” gets played. Vocally she’s a successor to Lauryn Hill, or is perhaps what Hill would be today if she hadn’t won all those Grammy Awards and seemingly flipped her lid. It’s not just that she has an eerily similar vocal tone and delivery to Ms. Hill, it’s the intellect behind the words that makes her the 2012 version of L-Boogie. It is therefore entirely apropo that she lyrically references a woman who is clearly both mentor and inspiration on the 9th Wonder produced “Believe Me.” Besides paying tribute to a ReFugee, the song is itself an argument as to why Rapsody belongs in the upper echelons.
“Mountains and peaks, valleys I’ve been through
The landlord tellin me come through, rent due
Since you seem to have it all figured out
Next month while you coppin one, cop me a Benz too
They all think just because rhymes bein laid
and niggaz gettin paid, I don’t struggle like you do
Put out more product and it’s better than labels move
Meetin frustration that I never gave into
Nigga, Lauryn ain’t crazy – just don’t know what she been through
Complain about radio, but nigga got no room
Cause niggaz with opinions don’t support you on iTunes
Listen – my sole mission was to rap and get paid to
be someone that these little girls look up to
Now I see the game for what it is, every chess move
Playin my cards all how they was dealt
I won’t bless with the money so my movement ain’t felt
Nigga, smoke and mirrors, look in the mirror
Tellin myself ‘Self, ain’t you glad yo’ shit is imperial?’
Huh, I rule everything around me, the CREAM
Get yo’ dolla dolla bills y’all this game is all a scheme”
That’s longer than the usual quotation for a review, but to honest I was hard pressed to find a place to stop when every Rap line was a personal revelation or humorous observation. Her vocal tone is so mesmerizing you can miss subtle snaps like “Kanye, walk with Jesus my way” and her clever lyrical brags like “Rap three times nice like the number of wise men/frontin niggaz, juke ’em every day like Heisman.” She doesn’t just succeed when 9th is behind the boards though – E. Jones is just as capable of elevating her to stratospheric heights on “Celebrate.” Just in case you thought Rapsody was too busy enlightening the miseducated, she shows here that she can appreciate the fun side of things too.
“Welcome to the party life (welcome!)
For those who seldom hearten life
To celebrate the good times
Got my check today, heh, on time (aw yeah!)
And all my close friends
Celebratin new beginnings here
For those turnin another year
For these young’uns in the world learnin how to steer
I celebrate ’em all
Celebrate for the fact that we all living y’all”
Rapsody’s success on “The Idea of Beautiful” is the fact she’s an inspired writer who can convey the thoughts of her beautiful mind while not leaving the listener feeling left behind. Some songs are melancholy like the Eric G laced “Precious Wings,” but she doesn’t stay in sadness or drown you with sorrow. Some songs are intense overwhelming odes to love’s addiction like “Come Home” featuring Rocki Evans, but she’s not spinning an album of romance novels. She’s a storyteller, but she can team with 9th, Raheem DeVaugn and Ab-Soul to spit some “Non-Fiction.” Her guests are like her from the new and now generation, like Mac Miller & The Cool Kids on “Roundtable Discussion.” To sum it up she covers all bases.
Given the disproportionate ratio of male to female rappers in the field of hip-hop, Rapsody is automatically going to be compared to artists like Jean Grae and Rah Digga. That’s understandable but it’s also inherently unfair, as she only sounds the tiniest iota like either one lyrically (if either of them it would be Jean) and is completely her own woman in terms of her vocab and rhyme flow. I’m guilty as charged though by comparing her to 1990’s L-Boogie myself, but since she draws the comparison of her own accord on the album perhaps I can be forgiven. The bottom line though is that she’s going to be known by generations to come as the master of her own style, one that men and women alike will wish they could do as well as she does on this debut.