Wordsworth knows about paying dues. Earning his stripes in the Lyricist Lounge circuit, he has a resume that boasts numerous acting stints and working with heads such as Black Star and Q-Tip. But his EP with partner-in-crime Punchline disappointed fans, and while he kept the street laced with blazing singles, he never had an album to show for it. With his solo debut Mirror Music (which also acts as the first solo album from fledging label Halftooth Records), the Brooklyn-bred lyricist puts together an impressive collection of street bangers and narratives that'd make his underground hip-hop brethren proud.
Words makes it clear that he's still got the goods that earned him his reputation. Ayatollah and Sebb supply him with certified bangers—"Right Now" and "Point Blank," respectively—that compliment his syncopated, science teacher delivery and punchline prowess. The Punch ‘N' Words reunion "Not Fair" doesn't disappoint, and he spits fire with Masta Ace and cousin Justyn Time for "EVOL." "Head High" does an exceptional job of highlighting the Halftooth roster, with verses by Words, Kenn Starr, and Oddisee, and the latter doubling behind the boards to contribute a delicious gumbo of soulful woodwinds and piano keys.
But the pleasant surprise is that Words brings more than just witty one-liners for the album. The majority of Mirror Music is made of vivid storytelling and introspective journal entires. Words describes his daily hip-hop grind on the Oddisee banger "Gonna Be," speaks on everything from CNN headlines to neighborhood activity on "What We Gon' Do," and uses "Be A Man" to give single parent props that'll prompt listeners to reevaluate their grown and sexy status. While "Unity" drags on with Words' reserved vocals and a sluggish beat, "Shoulder" has crossover potential with inspirational lyrics and Frequency's uplifting backdrop. Still, the album's shining moment comes in "Trust." Over a melodic, melancholy production by Dox 1, Words regretfully reflects on how he treated women in the past, and warns his daughter to avoid "dudes like me" in an especially touching third verse.
"Ladies and gentlemen, glad y'all waited, thanks, but I need your attention (right now)," Words says on the aforementioned album opener opener, "Right Now." With Mirror Music, listeners will be glad that they waited too.
Music Vibes: 8.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 10 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 9 of 10
Originally posted: September 14, 2004