Articulate :: Slave For This Dollar ::
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

Money is a powerful and dangerous thing. On one hand, we all need money to survive, and not having money means being disenfranchised and in many respects powerless. On the other hand, it is very easy to lose your humanity in the search for the almighty dollar, and many good people have lost track of their souls while on their quest to make more money. The cliché of the evil corporation exists because so many corporations are evil, and even good companies struggle to maintain their ethics with the lure of greater profits. On a more personal level, there are few things as demoralizing as spending 40-60 hours a week working a job you hate for a company you hate providing a service that no one needs. B-More rapper Articulate deals with these issues and tackles wage slavery on his concept EP "Slave For This Dollar." Over the course of nine tracks he examines how people end up as slaves to their jobs.

From the start, it's clear that Articulate is on a Nas-like quest to be provocative. He appears on the cover in black face, and he makes numerous references to workers being slaves. The EP starts off with the melodramatic "Chains," featuring violins, a women's choir, and swelling synths. A screwed and chopped voice acts as the hook, declaring "I ain't tryna get paid if it means I'm a slave/or if I lay in my grave/of if it's chains on my legs/chains on my wrists on my arms on my waist." "Life is too short to be somebody's worker," Articulate declares. "By working for someone else's cause, you a soldier." His message is clear: do what you love, and don't be anybody else's stooge.

On "Dreams" he lays out the struggles of being an underpaid musician, and he continues that thought on "Don't Go," in which he pleads with his girlfriend not to leave him because he devotes so much of his time to music. "Buses and Trains" deals with how public transportation impacts the working class, while "Escape" lays out his dream of a better life. The narrative that unfolds is that Articulate wants to be paid to be a rapper, and wants to work for himself on his own terms. It's a noble sentiment, and one that thousands of undergads across the country are feeling as they face graduation and the prospect of having to get a real job.

Articulate has a slightly raspy slow, and his flow and delivery is more like a hardcore East Coast rapper than a "conscious" rapper. It wouldn't have surprised me to hear him spit some gritty street crime raps, and his combination of raw delivery and positive message is one of his biggest strengths. D-Tox handles most of the production, and delivers some solid East Coast beats with a nice, crisp drum sound. He hits his stride on the soulful "The Cycle" and "Buses and Trains." "The Way It Is" has a nice flute loop, adding an introspective mood to Articulate's introspective rhymes. Articulate produces the Baltimore club track "Hungry," which is the one exception to an otherwise somber and downtempo album. The other producers are Sakwe, whose "Escape" features a chopped up soul sample, and is one of the best beats on the album, and Rickie Jacobs, who lays down a somber track that gives Articulate room to lay down some of his best rhymes:

"It's power, knowledge, or the dollar bill
My man said he's never seen a book make somebody rob and kill
But a dollar will
I told him that's true, but who has the cheese?
Is it high school dropouts working in factories
Or is it the ones who have degrees
Chilling on boats
Sipping martinis
Living lavishly
Running companies
Sending e-mails from Blackberries
Making decisions that effect your life
That's scary"

This is an ambitious project, and for the most part it works. Articulate raises some important and provocative questions, and he gets his point across. In fact, his point gets a little belabored over the course of nine tracks all dealing with the same subject matter. He even overuses the expression "slave for this dollar" to the point that by the end of the EP, it felt worn into the ground. Still, Articulate going on and on about not being a slave to money is much more compelling than hearing a rapper going on and on about how much jewelry they own/crack they sell/women they sleep with. Articulate may be repeating himself, but at least his message is important. He is offering the CD as a pay-what-you-want download on his website, so you can decide for yourself how important his message is, and how much you want to support him.

Music Vibes: 7.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7 of 10

Originally posted: July 15, 2008