Ever since I started writing for RapReviews.com, I've come to appreciate the honest and hard work exercised by independent artists. Can't have a rule without an exception, of course, but I can't tell you how refreshing it is to hear someone speak with his own voice over his own beats, instead of some hot shot rapper simultaneously riding his high horse as well as tracks that cost more than what most people make in a year. Some independent rappers will give you hip-hop as it was meant to be: raw, fresh, exciting, challenging.
Out of the truly independent rappers I've come across so far, only a few were eager to please mainstream tastes, while most had their very unique vision of hip-hop. Some of these visions are a bit on the weird side, but some make so much sense you'll find it hard to join in the general 'rap is dead' discussions.
This week's rap resurrector is Timid whose vision of hip-hop encompasses even the things only seen by the third eye, as the name of his production company, Third Visional Entertainment, suggests. Several rap clichés can be ruled out when speaking of Timid. He does not lament the desolate state of hip-hop, he does not brag about his material possessions, he does not glorify violence, he does not even curse - yet he's not a backpacker either. So what is he about?
Belying both his nom de plume and his album's name, Timid is on a soul-searching and at the same time soul-soothing mission. You might even say he's out to save a few spirits. Here we have a rapper that actually gives a damn, who cares about his soul, about your soul. And makes music about it, 'soul music' in its original sense, its possibly purest form. No, he does not BARE his soul. Personal confessions - bar one - are absent from "inTimidation". Rather, he raps in propositions of almost Oriental wisdom. Seems too far fetched of a comparison? Not for someone who practices and teaches martial arts (Tai Chi, Chi Kung, Wing Chun) and has produced an instrumental CD ("Chi Kung Standing Meditations") that helps a number of practictioners around the world keep their balance. Like any respectful martial arts teacher, Timid keeps the distance between himself and his audience. Some might even mistake his monotone, subdued flow for indifference or arrogance.
But it's not this reserve unusual for a rapper that causes this album to lurch from side to side during its starting phase. The "inTimidation Intro" features some indeed very timid sounds emitted from a keyboard barely fingertipped and a growling bass carried by beats that are just too basic. Considering what's about to follow, maybe Timid should have opted for a warmer welcome instead of immediately trying to intimidate those who took the time out to listen to his CD. Still, if you like a well structured flow and lyrics to connect with your intellect, this'll show you what to expect down the line:
"Allow me a clear path to my goals
done for the love and for the audience of the souls
Head nod from the spine, rock your cervical vertabrae
keep bobbin' further down until your thoracic come into play
Intrinsic intuition keep you mesmerized at the core
View with triangle sight, past the illusion and see more
Uplifted, nature took its course and saw me to be gifted
Perceive truth of the deeds that evil seeds have shifted
Sifted through the rubble to find within what I must
the true handful of those ashes to ashes and dust to dust"
This rather dry performance is saved by singer Soul who lends his stablizing vocals, interrupted by Tash from Tha Liks calling in for a shout out. If you're seeking for salvation through "inTimidation", you'll have to sit through two more cuts that might tear at your nerves a bit. "Bars on the Battlefield" (f/ Killah) sounds like one of those Wu-Tang Killa Beez duds with the cheap eerie sounds and Timid and Killah spitting some verbal ballistics that go off like a blown up ammunition dump. It might look and sound impressive, but it's just that - a waste of ammunition.
"All About The Rhyme" eventually ends up on the same sidetrack. Being 'all about the rhyme', the track is too much of an end in itself, to "kill and fill time," as Timid admits himself in the rushed chorus. However, time is definitely not wasted on this one, with some advanced wordplay to be savoured:
"Musically addicted, a victim of rhythmic sensations
Exile myself with a #2 and a pad conducting relations
In depth concepts filed in Mental-pedia
let my brain feed, live stream, because this is Real Media
From alpha to zeta my thoughts come in waves
and I boogie bored myself to death on the path it paves
Rhyme pays off 2 to 1 but takes 15% in tips
20 more in tax and miscellaneous fees, now cash in ya chips
What ya got left to dip? Not much of the green is seen
depressed pockets, nothing but blue cheese and sour cream"
But as he begins to talk about "a race that thrives on aggression," and its "advanced civilized man, a tax-write-off humanitarian / normal contradiction in terms in the age of the techno-barbarian," Timid foreshadows the things to come. "I Ain't Got Nothin'" can't escape its Wu-Tang-likeness neither, but this time it's pulled off much better. With a sped up vocal sample and a dramatic track, this is the first time that "inTimidation" strikes a chord somewhere deep within. Meanwhile, Timid lays out his masterplan to "stay dilligent, try to make moves intelligent / and avoid bein' annoyed by the non-relevant." Be warned, you are dealing with a very mature individual here.
It certainly wouldn't be enough if only his rhymes spoke maturity, the music would have to as well. And it does. "Life's Way" would be perfectly at home with the Dungeon Family. Soulful harmonizing courtesy of the aforementioned Soul, a track that steadily builds up and releases tension, highs and lows sonically all covered, and finally Timid's reflective voice speaking his gospel on top of it. Without ever touching on religious matters, some songs here offer almost a spiritual experience and the listener feels that the "strength not from anger but manifested within / the calm and serentity that lies in all men," Timid has found them for himself.
And so his remake of the War classic "The World is a Ghetto" (built on the original strong groove), doesn't dwell in depression but makes its words speak as loud as any action:
"How fake is the one that has to remind you that he's real?
Strength of man shallowly determined by his muscle
and the beauty of life reduced to nothing more than a hustle
to get the vain attention that is craved by the ego
conscious ruled by the id, iced to perpetrate the regal
How am I suppose to look up to cats that exist below me?
Show me, homey, that you're worth more than your Roley"
It seems as if the War sample (including vocals) has fortified his delivery, as he raps more animated than usual. The fact aside that Timid's "The World Is A Ghetto" is built on a very solid foundation laid by War, this is a great song that should give everybody that listens to contemporary rap music something think about.
Speaking of music, Timid does not forget that music is what he does. In that sense, "A Little Music", which grants a kid's wish to "hear some music please," is as truthful as it is ironic. Singer Nasia lends her voice to the jazzy backdrop as Timid develops his musical theory:
"Such elegance, we hold these notes in reverance
heaven-sent, it's proven by your movement as evidence
characteristic of the mystical properties
of musical philosophies that reign on par with Socrates
innoculated by the vaccine of the scales
divided into 7 parts and reorganized into tales
told to the ear, bold for you to hear
Listen and behold noise made and played clear"
"A Little Music" sets the stage for "My Soul", a musically equally impressive statement. Again there's a singer (KJ) and the encompassing mellow vibe that we associate with the word 'soulful'. Then he's off for some ego-stroking ("Make No Mistake") again with the assistance of a singer (Brenda Sepulveda). Musically, things don't get tired as he hits you from yet another angle of the soul spectrum, with some truly funky bits and pieces intertwined into the mix. More in tune with the current 'avantgarde' stuff is "My Apology" which shocks both by the sudden personal touch and the insecure atmosphere that the song is set in. But whatever musical choice Timid makes, you get the feeling that the man knows what he's doing. Only "Understand the Concept" makes it hard to concentrate on the lyrics, as speeches, news reports, background singing and rapping are all clustered together, while the underlying acoustic guitar is being plucked rather indifferently.
Upholding a hip-hop tradition, "inTimidation" bids farewell with a posse cut. For a CD that has trouble getting in gear to take such a turn for the better, is quite a surprise. While it doesn't break any new ground musically, it's Timid's focus on what really matters that makes his album a radical step into the future. What you get from Timid is what for the time being only independent hip-hop can provide you with: rap music that speaks to your soul.
Music Vibes: 7 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7 of 10
Originally posted: July 5, 2002