Personality is perhaps one of the most underrated aspects of a good, or in some cases, popular, hip-hop artist. It's frustrating because a handful of dope lyricists have the personality of an earthworm while a bulk of the mainstream has charisma, but wouldn't drop a hot bar if someone baked their Irish Spring. Jay-Z, and the other greats of our time, got it right. He didn't settle for catch phrases (remember "Ugghhh"?) and flashy fads; he kept his personality throughout his career, not to mention he was a pretty dope lyricist, which is why people always wanted his next album. Meanwhile, the rappers who had so much success with the catch phrases usually had a hard time maintaining it (remember "Hootie Hoo"?.....yea). Nowadays, this point is glaring as it seems a new fad is trying to have the personality of Jay-Z. Countless CD's are sent my way by unknown rappers trying to shine by duplicating the little things that make Shawn Carter the prodigious Hova. And it's not just him. Nas, BIG, Pac, even Eminem and 50 are impersonated on the daily as new artists try to match their success.
So how do you know when a rapper has personality? Basically the same way you know anyone has personality. The way they talk, the confidence, their enthusiasm; the little things that make them like no one else. And in the rap game, you have to add flow and delivery into that category. By now you're probably thinking "What the hell is this guy talking about? I thought this was a LMNO review?" It is folks and it just so happens that LMNO falls in the middle of the personality vs. lyrics battle. His words are not from the mouth of an amateur and his thoughts are not of earthworm mentality. Yet one could argue that his delivery and monotone deal a slight blow to his overall charisma.
For those who don't know, this Cali-raised MC also known as Leave My Name Out, is part of the Los Angeles mini-melting pot that forms the Visionaries. Long recognized as a group that's not ashamed to stray from the norm of alpha males that prowl on stages around the country; these guys openly rap about spirituality and love. This particular solo act keeps their name true.
Not to turn this into a cold, formulaic breakdown of an album, but ask any psychologist and he'll tell you that when people disclose personal information to others, both feel a stronger connection in the wake of it. Knowing that fans of hardcore rap would probably chuckle at his good side and church members would probably scoff at his bad side, LMNO sacrifices himself for the truth in this verse from "Industry Revival":
"To some I'm not Christian enough
To others I'm too Christian, I say God too much
I backslid like the moonwalk
Not to be comical
Cause and effect is phenomenal
Losing respect cuz they heard I use curse words
Or cuz I use herbs and I don't go to church
Has clean verses and even quoted the bible
What kind of Christian rolls up the hydro?"
LD's laid-back beat is crisply produced and provides a canvas of sound respectable for any MC to paint on.
Fellow Visionary 2Mex drops his 2 cents on "A Portion." The soulful synthesizers support solid lyrics from both about the potential they still possess in their relatively young careers. They trade off verses and display the chemistry that arises from many AM hours in the studio together. Freestyle freak of nature Supernatural shows up on the banger "Drop That." Even when Jurassic 5's Chali 2na shows up on "God Bless" the one thing you can count can on with the collabs is that even though the guests hold it down, LMNO is right beside as another MC; not a shadow.
Throughout the line-up of impressive songs, LMNO passes several important parts of the personality test. He's an introspective MC with a mind that's sharpened in critical thinking. He's honest with himself and his fans, which in a world of "studio gangsters," is very hard to come by these days. The only real knock on him is the somewhat monotone delivery (see: Evidence of Dilated Peoples) that might fool some listeners into thinking he lacks the punch of a more charismatic MC. While he could use a little more life in his flow, his talented lyrical approach, when combined with his conscious, earthy style, give us a personality that mirrors that of no other. The consistent, quality production helps solidify "P's & Q's" as well-worth 15 bucks if you see it in the store.
Music Vibes: 8.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8 of 10
Originally posted: July 26, 2005