While I genuinely believe that racism and sexism are not as big of a problem in the rap game as some people make it seem, I do believe that the one thing rap fans do discriminate against is geography. Despite people like Atmosphere getting much love on all coasts, it's still difficult as an emcee to come out of a relatively unknown city or state. Articulate's geography (Nebraska or the "nasty north" as he calls it) and his penchant for using somewhat geeky and inappropriate lines at times are the only things that may keep him from the exposure that his music deserves. But with a collection of head-nodding beats, a tight flow, and thoughtful lyrics, Articulate is definitely an emcee worth checking out.
The production, handled mostly by Benefit, Chad Cells, and j.decay is a collection of hardcore hip-hop beats. The producers are clearly influenced by Golden Era kings such as Pete Rock, DJ Premier, and Rza, but manage to convey a sound that doesn't sound outdated or copied. "The Voyage" flips a smooth and majestic string/voice sample over a simple but bumping beat and bass line combination. "Rough Rugged & Raw" is a somewhat simple, but energetic track. "March of Death" uses a tension building horn sample to provide Articulate with an appropriate battle track background. "Peter and the Wolf" is a welcome break and a unique interlude as a DJ flips the theme to "Peter and the Wolf" over a drum loop. The rest of the production follows the trend of bass heavy drum loops laced with simple but effective samples. In today's rap game, the lack of complexity in the beats holds them back from being as great as they could be, but overall they are still more than adequate and fit Articulate's style well.
Lyrically, Articulate has his flow down tight. Though he doesn't possess an overly unique voice or any other attention grabbing trait, his flow is precise and clear and he delivers his lyrics with conviction. He is also versatile when it comes to topic matter, with topics ranging from battle raps on "The Voyage":
"Yo, it's the voyage, set sail, I'ma navigate the best I can
And when it's done and over, scribes examine ways my quest began
I stretch my clan across the earth, etch my name into the Taj Mahal
Ride on all of y'all like an equestrian
Protection plans couldn't protect you from attacks prempt
Now I'm at the back of your building without an exit plan
Your music got that sing-song feel
I bring it to y'all more sicker than Kim Jong-il"
To conversations with God on the religious "Face Full of Rain":
I've been faithfully following your words
Since I first heard em
Ever since I got to hear my first church sermon
I felt this burning urge inside
It made me feel like maybe there's a purpose to this life
I searched far and wide to find the truth but I was blind
I never knew the light I'd have with you right by my side
I'm losing my damn mind and without you I would die
You helped me all them times when I be down and bout to cry"
Other effective and compelling tracks include the drunken narrative "Stumblin Home" and the personal hardship tale "Confidence." Articulate is also competent dropping battle raps on tracks like "Rough Rugged and Raw" and "Confidence." Articulate's only down sides include dropping lines that may be either too geeky or too much for the average rap fan. Referencing the Bolsheviks on a rap song might be too much for even the most intellectual rap fan and lines like "sicker than the residue on Janet Reno's pap smear" don't quite sit well. Articulate's only other weak point is the fact that he could use a little more help in the hook department.
Overall, "Against The Current" is a solid album that shows that hip-hop can thrive even in the so called "heartland" of America. There's definitely room for improvement, especially if Articulate wants to get more than just hardcore heads bobbing , but as it stands Articulate is more than capable and definitely a breath of fresh air in today's rap game.
Music Vibes: 6.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 6.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 6.5 of 10
Originally posted: May 9, 2006