No one can accuse Australian rapper One Sixth of lacking ambition. He decided to make his debut a concept album about digital communication. All of the lyrics and song titles tie into the theme, especially around how much miscommunication there is. He's not taking the easy road out lyrically, either. He only lightly touches on the standard rap subjects of sex, partying, and being the best rapper around. He spends most of the album delving into the many tragic stories in the world ("SMS") and getting romantic. Yes, that's right, a rapper who is not Drake getting romantic. Even more surprising, he makes it work.
"Crossed Wires" has a mellow beat that sounds like a reworking of Lil Kim's "Crush On You," only without the vulgarity. Where most rappers come off as arrogant when dealing with the ladies, One Sixth admits to being dumbstruck by a woman:
"Don't know what this nubian queen was doing to me
I usually keep my composure cool in the heat
But her subtle fine voice injected butterflies right into my stomach
Like I was testing Tyson in a fucking fight"
Candice Monique makes an appearance as the woman in question, and her verses contain a sweetness you don't often hear in a rap song. Even more unusual for a rap song, it's about finding love, not lust.
"Crossed Wires" is followed by "The Night Market," in which One Sixth cautions about the steep price you pay in order to be with some of the women you meet at bars. "Think of You" is another love song, with One Sixth rapping "I'm sure there is a supreme being sitting in his seat beaming with pride the night he made you."
It's not all wine and candlelights, though. He teams up with Mantra and Mandz to get raunchy on "Sick." "SMS (Six Million Stories)" is about a woman in an abusive relationship with her cancer-ridden baby daddy, and approaches "Precious" levels of misery.
Beats are supplied by Must Volkoff, Charles Parker, Dyl Thomas, Tony Wolf, and Geko. The production is a combination of electro-inspired beats, reflecting the album's concept, and mellower vibes reflecting the romantic tone of many of the lyrics. Highlights include Parker and Wolf's jazzy beat on "Round the Sun," and the subdued funk of "Quartz." For the most part, the beats are serviceable if not particularly amazing.
One Sixth's skills on the mic don't always match his lyrical ambitions. His flow is sometimes stilted, he crams too many syllables into lines, and his rhymes don't always hit their mark. He's not at the effortless stage that marks the best rappers, and the result is that he comes off as clumsy on some of the tracks.
Even with those criticisms, "Electronic Mail" is worth checking out. It's not often that you hear a rap album that is so sincere and honest in dealing with romantic relationships, and so totally unconcerned with the posturing and braggadocio that consumes most rappers. One Sixth is a promising talent who has made a ambitious if somewhat flawed album.
Music Vibes: 6 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 6 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 6 of 10
Originally posted: August 28th, 2012