Black Spade :: To Serve With Love :: OM Hip Hop
as reviewed by Justin 'Tha Shiznute' Chandler

If there was such a thing as adult-progressive hip-hop music, Black Spade would be the embodiment of it: soft, jazzy, creative, and pure. His album, "To Serve With Love," is clearly influenced by the likes of his predecessors whom consist of A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul. It should also be embraced by their fans

The title track, which opens the album beautifully with entrancing keys and a soulful boom bap, is an exploration of Spade's own childhood love. This is evident by the line, "See we was like Bonnie & Clyde shoplifting out at Wal-Green's/Only 14, still in …used jeans." Unlike most rappers, Spade is not talking about how hard he is; instead, he is looking at his past in a brutally honest way. This is a welcome breath of fresh air in the realm of rap music.  

The strength of Black Spade throughout the course of the LP is this honest tone he conveys his music in. Further, the subject matter varies from relationships (not purely sexual), music appreciation, childhood and his social and political views. With such openness, I almost expect the rapper to be spitting under his birth name.  

Occasionally Spade strays into a more R&B-tinged track, such as, "Her Perfume She Wore," which has the featured artist crooning to the best of his ability. The song is hypnotizing, similar to the theme of the lyrical content, which is that the "perfume she wore" is love-- and it draws him in. However, Spade is best suited to just rhyme simply and directly over relaxed beats. He is like a long-lost member of Slum Village.  

Perhaps the nicest track on the album, "Love Right Here (Remix)," is produced by Wajeed of Platinum Pied Pipers. This is the best because it is the perfect blend of a groovy beat with wise lyrics, like, "How could you possibly love, when you love hate?" Further, the chorus is definitely on point. The song tackles the large topic of love and looks at it from various perspectives.  

Don't think that "To Serve With Love" is purely armchair music. Some of the tracks ("Revolutionary Bullshit"; "The Half That's Never Been Told") are fairly aggressive and say some offensive things, yet stay within the mood that is trying to be portrayed--he isn't afraid to drop the F-bomb for dramatic effect. The former even brings the lyric, "Bang this when the Bush daughters are giving you face!" which could theoretically appall a Republican rap listener--but are there any!?  

Despite the few flaws on "To Serve With Love," Black Spade is doing just that--delivering skillfully crafted hip-hop music with love to his fans. Definitely check into this release if you are a fan of that pure jazzy hip-hop. Though it is ultimately a fairly inconsistent album (and sometimes even boring), it also shines at times and certainly focuses on subject matters that are not the norm. More incredibly, Spade carries nearly the entire album on his own, including production, using his father's extensive record collection as his only ammunition. Rap listeners, at some point, may come at a crossroad determining what variation of rap they will listen to when they grow old. The album, "To Serve With Love," is an example of what I imagine to be the stuff I'll be listening to, when the violence and misogyny of the standard fare gets old too.

Music Vibes: 7.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8 of 10

Originally posted: February 17, 2009