With so many hungry rappers going all out on the mixtape scene these days, in order to stand out amongst the pack, it is crucial that an MC possesses something more than just dope punchlines and fluid freestyles. Jamaica, Queens native Grafh has that special something, a microphone presence that consistently entertains with solid metaphors and a charismatic flow. While his often used billing as the "Black Eminem" may be a bit unjustified, Grafh has an ability to change up vocal pitches and flip lines in ways that most other rappers can't, making him one of the most gifted newcomers in the street game.
Unfortunately, record label drama and other 'behind closed doors' happenings have prevented Grafh from releasing an official debut, which was scheduled to happen this summer. Always one to highlight upcoming stars (see Lloyd Banks and Obie Trice), DJ Green Lantern has put together, along with Grafh's assistance, "The Oracle Mixtape," a collection of freestyles, unreleased tracks, and other verses from Blackhand Enertainment's premier artist. 22 tracks deep in length, "The Oracle Mixtape" is an action-packed disc highlighting Grafh's natural abilities, and should hopefully inspire a major label to sign him and release new material with the quickness.
"Damage Is Done" kicks off this mixtape, with its melancholy vocal samples layering behind Grafh's unflinching self-examination made memorable by lines like, "Life is about loyalty, respect, and discipline, so you gotta take it in blood like when you gotta inject insulin." Rolling bass and organ keys allow him to coast easily over "Don't Say It's Gangsta", while the Lil Flip and Sosh Bacardi assisted "What It Be Like" slows the pace down with an ominous backdrop of chimes and flutes. "Food" is one of this disc's standouts, with Grafh in top form attacking an insane arrangement of guitars, militant percussion and carnival-like sound effects, dropping dizzying bars:
"Dog you startin' in the wrong shoe
Startin' with the wrong move
like a Blood cripwalking in dark blue
And the target is on you, so what you gonna do
When I'm squashing your jaw with a small bar stool
Or I knock a part of your heart on your Sean John suit
My squad make the sawed-off shoot
so keep believing your squad
while I'm leavin' your thoughts on your ensemble
Steady squeezing at a target with a sharp harpoon
So keep a clover and small leprechaun up on you
and tell me if you feel lucky, nigga"
Juelz Santana of Diplomat fame checks in on the borough-uniting "Queens Meets Harlem", while Prodigy joins Grafh on the avant-garde "Hot Wheels." Bun B of the Southern legends UGK makes two appearances on "The Oracle Mixtape", on the freestyle "Don't Give A Fuck" and the blazing 'Weight Of The World." "Weight Of The World" induces instant head-nodding with a scorching blend of electric guitar chords for Bun B and Grafh to strut their confident stuff. Grafh manages to outshine the veteran Bun B with his verse, opening up with, "You know we stuck on this grind, cuz my name is like a migraine stuck on ya mind/ Who gives a fuck if I'm signed or not, I'm signed to the block/ And my niggas on the side block, wit they eyes on the glock."
The endless storm of rhymes upon rhymes continues on vicious freestyles "Keep It Thorough", "Put It In Da Air", and "G.I. Freestyle." Taking on the daring task of using Mobb Deep "Shook Ones Pt. 2" instrumental seems is a successful endeavor on "Gang Related", as Grafh addresses many rumors and issues surrounding him, such as his similarity in style to Joe Budden:
"I hate when dudes ask, 'Yo what up with Joe Budden'
It ain't beef cuz if it was when I saw him in person I would have snuffed him
So whatever you heard, it was nothin' and that's that
Don't ask if he's biting off of my style, cuz that's rap
Me, I'm a real ass nigga and that's fact
I ain't Ja, 'Holla Hollerin' about 'Clap Back'
My team bang, clapping the fifth
I'm a star like an asterix, with a brand new ass to kiss"
Plagued by only a few weak joints (the uninspired "We Ridin'" and a few so-so freestyles), "The Oracle Mixtape" is a perfect introduction of Grafh to those still unaware, as well as a tight new addition for his ever-growing following. The Evil Genius Green Lantern has assembled a mixtape that does exactly what these discs are supposed to do: highlight an up-and-coming talent by showcasing his strongest work to date. Enter the name Grafh into your memory bank, because it can't be too much longer until the Queens representative emerges from below the commercial radar to backslap those who have neglected him thus far.
Music Vibes: 7 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7.5 of 10
Originally posted: July 13, 2004