My relationship with the Show-Me state goes back further than most rap aficionados. I say this not to brag about being "down" longer than others, but to highlight how much Missouri rap has changed in the years I've known it. When I first heard someone out of Missouri it was St. Louis' Deadly Deuce, a G-funk rap group consisting of two dudes with the most unflattering cover art I've ever come across but with some decently smooth flows. I bought a promo single from a mom and pop record store's clearance bin and was seriously feeling a track called "Leave Yo Feelings at the Crib." Despite feeling the crew, I never did see "Nott Datt" the album in any stores. Fast forward to the year 2000 and another rapper with a smooth flow caught my attention. This time his name was Nelly and he traded in the G-Funk for some new school Hip-pop style that quickly caught on. Turns out he too was from St. Louis and this time his album was amply available in the record stores. My last Missouri encounter came in the form of Tech N9ne, who couldn't be more different from Nelly or Deadly Deuce. Enough praise has been showered upon Tech N9ne, suffice it to say Tech is one of my favorite rappers now. In 2008 yet another Missouri rapper has found his way into my rotation and once again I leave impressed. Granted, Steddy P sent in his album for review, but given how hard it is to find a good indie record store, this job is one of the last avenues for finding independent music.
Steddy P is nothing like his predecessors in terms of style and substance. His style is more akin to KRS-One than Nelly as Steddy P gives us straight forward flows about hip-hop and life. The music is also a change of pace from what you might expect to hear from a Missouri rapper as we get a mixture of quirky beats and boom-bap soul. The music is actually the better of the two elements found on "Dear Columbia." That is not to say Steddy P doesn't hold his own, but his producers definitely shine the most. On "Thank You" P.R.E. chops up some soul to give us a driving track with a great breakdown on the hook. P.R.E. slows things down for "5 A.M." with a jazzy, slow trumpet sample and yet another noteworthy breakdown mid-verse. P.R.E. shows more diversity on "We Must" and "Lessons" where he switches up his style yet again. The other producers are no chumps either, each giving the album a unique touch. Ryan Sublette gives us a simple, but effective synth combination on "Mad Real." The album's most unique track comes from Heez On Fire who samples Mega Man on "P.S." – not sure about the sample clearance, but it's dope regardless.
Though the production is the better of the two elements, there's plenty of Steddy P to like. "When Your Mouth Is Moving" is a dope track dedicated to the idea that people should listen more often than they talk. "Rain Falls From the Clouds" is another noteworthy track that finds Steddy P reflecting on the hard times that come when pursuing a rap career. Steddy P even manages to win me over with tracks addressing hip-hop, which are usually the tracks I detest. "Mad Real" chronicles an open mic night, makes pleas for people to support local music, and makes reference to KRS-One's Temple of Hip-Hop. "We Must" is yet another cry to save Hip-Hop, but P.R.E.'s beat and Steddy's sincerity make it better than most I've heard. The beat flipping towards the end also helps the track stand out.
Overall "Dear Columbia" is a surprisingly solid album from the relatively unknown Missouri emcee. Steddy P isn't the most unique emcee out there, but his flow and sincerity make for an enjoyable listen. The beats also tend to stick to the tried and true techniques of beat-making, but they all end up being solid. While I tend to be surprised whenever any independent emcee is solid, Steddy P is even more surprising given his style. Of the four Missouri emcees I've ever given a serious listen, all have had extremely different styles and all have been solid. Given how often styles in one state mimic each other, it's quite impressive to find such a variety of rap music in one state. Even more impressive is the fact that each style is done so well and has found success. While the success of Nelly and Tech N9ne need not be discussed, Deadly Deuce and Steddy P also found their own groove. For Deadly Deuce it was impressive their promo single found its way to a mom and pop store in suburban Massachusetts (where I was attending a summer program). For Steddy P, being carried by a site like UndergroundHipHop.com is impressive for a newcomer. Hopefully, Steddy P can stick around and evolve a little longer than Deadly Deuce did, but regardless he'll still be remembered next time a Show-Me state emcee comes my way.
Music Vibes: 7 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 6 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 6.5 of 10
Originally posted: August 5, 2008