Is this the last album from Fort Wayne, Indiana rap pioneer
Sankofa? In his own
words it "Just Might Be." I've spoken to him a bit leading up to the release
and expressed my regret that he's decided to hang up the mic, but I also
respect his personal and professional reasons for entering self-imposed exile.
has followed most of his releases, but as most of us are aware, critical
acclaim doesn't pay the rent or buy you groceries. It's overly simplistic
to blame the abundance of free albums on DatPiff and Bandcamp for squeezing out the
intelligent and artistic artists trying to make a buck, particularly when
I know a few who make their living OFF sites like Bandcamp.
Then again with so many meaningless and mindless free albums out
there, an intelligent rapper like Sankofa can get drowned out amongst
the noise, and commercially
successful but artistically vapid rappers only make the signal to
noise ratio worse.
Ultimately one can respect Sankofa's choice to make an artistic
statement with "Just Might Be" and walk away with his head held high,
rather than becoming another one of those bitter backpack rappers who
cries about how dope he is while nobody out there pays attention.
And if you're new to Sankofa at this point, being one of the readers who
never previously experienced his iconoclastic rap stylings, "21 Choices"
is the kind of reassurance you need that he's different from all the
same old same out there and worth the investment of time and money.
Both the song and the video are an ode to pedaling on your own two
feet, and I do mean that literally:
"No more fumbling, finding my keyfob
Plus by the time my windshield is defogged
I'd already be at work with time to spare
So complain about gas like I'm trying to care
If you're seeking sympathy, you won't find it in me
My bad, I'm just gliding the streets
Enjoying the air, the scenery, and the rhythm of it
Plus racing cars across the street when I am finna rush it
I got a bike from my dad, it was a ten speed
Now I've got 21 choices, seeing Humvees
Guzzling gas so I'm zooming past them
Backed up traffic paying dues to fashion
Forget it man, I'm moving at my own speed
Goretex Nikes so I'm never catching cold feet"
If you think he's on some hippie shit though, "!@#! (Cursed)" shows
there's more going on that going green. Sankofa uses a funky backdrop
to break down a verse about the power of the curse, both acknowledging
his occasional use of profanity and expressing his love of seeking more
creative alternatives to them.
"Motherfucker rolls off the tongue so nicely
Plus it's great filler in the throes of a dry heave!
Don't have something to say? Say that
Pose like a tough guy with a Maybach
See I treat the words like a nuclear option...
... except I use them more often"
The outro to the song is its own entertainment as well, as Mr. Bryden
admits you might hear his neighbor's dog barking in the background,
then confessing he won't re-record it (and personally I can't hear it)
while also offering listeners "guns, sex, drugs, money" if they really
want a stereotypical rap song so badly. It's that balance between
thoughtful insights, self-deprecating humor and breath control that
sets Sankofa apart from the average. "Chasing Ghosts" is about his
obsession with sneakers, which he takes to the "honestly - I bought
a shirt because it matched a pair" level. (I know there's a lot of readers
out there who can relate.) "Belligerent Beard" takes a minute or so
to get going, but then Sankofa raps like his facial hair is Samson's
dreads, giving him the strength to flow faster than mere mortals.
"Big Top" shows off a little swagger to his flow: "Just to clear the
troublesome confusion away/if your style's dope I'm pharmaceutical
grade." WORD. And some tracks like "Rift" are just haunting
- both instrumentally and vocally:
"I tend not to speak in these ways
but these times are designed to remind me how blinded I may be
I get cold chills makin monsters out of molehills
Maybe if I'm lucky one day they'll grow gills
Then they can help me swim through this mess
that I made by trying to avoid the stress
I mean it's - simple enough but I'd rather let it die, yep
All the better for my mind to dissect
Keep myself company with all that is undone
I caused this guilt trip - perpetual humdrum
Put the replay up on Jumbotrons
Title it - 'The Life of a Chump Goes On'"
Even for a self-critical emcee like Sankofa, those words make you
want to reach an arm around him and say, "Hey man, it's gonna be okay."
Really though it's the whole of the hip-hop nation who needs a comforting
hug knowing this "Just Might Be" the last time we hear from this clever,
witty, fiercely independent and defiantly intelligent emcee. Hip-Hop
collectively becomes a little less fresh when the dope ones like Mr. Bryden
decide it's not worth it to ply their craft any more. No matter how
justifiable it is to call it quits instead of continuing to fight for art's right
to exist, the void made by his absence will be filled by one more Gucci
Mane or Trinidad James. I don't relish that prospect, but at least if
Sankofa had to find a way to go out, it wasn't out like a sucker.
Music Vibes: 8.5 of 10
Lyric Vibes: 8.5 of 10TOTAL Vibes: 8.5 of 10