Sankofa :: Music With Friends Volume 3 :: Obese America
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

This is the third installment of Sankofa's free "Music With Friends" series of EPs, following the aptly titled "Volume One" and "Volume Two." Each MWF has its own theme both musically and lyrically, and this one sees Sankofa in a somewhat quiet, reflective frame of mind. If it's possible for rappers to make bedroom recordings, then Sankofa's "Music With Friends Volume 3" is a bedroom recording. I'm not talking about baby-making jams for the bedroom, I'm talking about the kind of intimate, subdued music typically made by indie rockers with acoustic guitars and a 4-track/laptop. Think Nick Drake or Elliot Smith, only instead of being a suicidally depressed, mopey singer/songwriter, Sankofa is a relatively well-adjusted rapper who is not afraid to drop some GRE words in his rhymes.

He starts things off with the Joe Harvey-produced "Cholestreol" (a reference to Ice Cube's verse on the D.O.C.'s "Grand Finale"), rapping over a mellow guitar riff and shuffling drum beat. "Some say I might be a little too crazy," he raps. "And you know what? They may be right." His rapping on most of the EP is taken down a notch both in terms of tempo and volume. Think of it as the anti-M.O.P., the sound of a man speaking softly but carrying a big stick. Ebro's beat on "Fearless Jones" is smooth funk, and Sankofa starts off rapping about the Walter Mosely book of the same name, before laying into the disposable nature of downloaded music, and ending with a fierce statement of purpose:

"I write rimes on sheets of the scrunched up paper
Found inside a new pair of shoes for flavor
Every purchase then becomes tax deductible
The pedigree wordsmith with raps combustible
React to the track, interact and adapt
Steer clear of the fear and adhere to the pact
That I made with the pen when I started to write"

On "Bumper Sticker," Joe Harvey offers up a jazzy beat, while Sankofa goes off on bumper stickers and the hollow, over-simplified slogans they contain. His views on abortion bumper stickers are particularly insightful:

"I want a bumper sticker that says "abortion bumper stickers suck"
Letting your car do the talking, but then you zip it up
How does something so complicated become a slogan
Then a candidate's political fodder, it's a no win
It's murder, and it's freedom, it's not an easy answer
It's something we can pick sides on, yeah that seems a standard
Then we can bicker, picking away at old scabs
Never listening, but megaphones we hold fast
popping veins in necks soon brewing a chant to love life
Saliva flying from their faces when the mud flies
naked baby dolls on crucifixes hanging from necks
Kind of makes me wonder…what will come next
Threats, a clinic bombed, killing killers, holy wars
A new wave of crusades with a golden sword
Drawing lines in the sand where the tougher withdrawal
And nothing says nothing like nothing at all"

"Geetar" has Sankofa rapping over nothing but an bluesy acoustic guitar, and even without a beat it totally works. "Hopalong" has the most hip hop beat on the album, provided by Geno. You know how a lot of rappers sing their hooks? Well, Sankofa whistles his, and doesn't even use autotune.

Every track on here has a winning combination of smooth, introspective beats and intelligent, well-delivered rhymes. "Music With Friends Volume 3" may not get the party started, but it is the perfect late night album, after the guests are gone but before sleep will come. Best of all, it is available for free, so go download it.

Music Vibes: 8 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8 of 10

Originally posted: December 9, 2008