Just about the time Kanye West was crossing the threshold from flavor-of-the-month chart-topping Roc-A-Fella MC to voice of a generation, his hometown also seemed on the brink of a renaissance. Common was enjoying his greatest stardom to date, aided by the aforementioned Mr. West; Rhymefest looked like the next big thing; and a group of young, seemingly up-and-coming MCs such as Thaoine Davis were impressing fans across the underground for their inspired, soul-driven hip hop. Six years later, though, the Chi seems a land of unfulfilled promises. While Yeezy's star is shining brighter than Polaris, one can't help but ask what happened to the Windy City's other young risers. Common seems to have focused his efforts into supporting roles on the silver screen; Rhymefest appears to have returned to whatever relative obscurity he came from; deals and subsequent records have eluded many of the young virtuosos of 2005…and fuck it, has anybody seen Do or Die lately?
Rashid Hadee is most renowned for his production work, inking extensive credits with usual Chi-Town suspects such as Thaione Davis, Silent Knight, and Pugs Atomz as well as Little Brother and Finale, and he's also one half of the duo Chapter 13. "Dedication," released overseas in 2005 and domestically with an altered tracklist in 2007, was his solo debut, seeing Rashid step from behind the boards to assume mic duties in addition to supplying beats on twelve of the fourteen tracks.
Hadee pledges motivation and focus on his debut, promising to "stay on point like the touch of a blade" on "Dedication (Intro)," yet the bulk of "Dedication" is the audio equivalent of Nyquil. "Dedication" sounds very much like an early Justus League record, using thin, often flimsy vocal samples from classic soul songs, speeding them up, and arranging them in overly repetitive loops. At times the balance seems a bit off with beats too loud and samples too soft, but what's ironic is that for all the soul sampling, the music itself has very little soul. The studio doctoring and banal arrangements rob the violins and vocals of their emotional quality, and the lifeless percussion is a poor match for the instrumentals, frequently overpowering them with heavy kicks and inappropriately fast tempos. They are also extremely similar to one another, and perusing the tracklist the swirling violins, subtle muted horns, and somber bells all blend together.
Hadee intends "Dedication" to be a wistful, nostalgic nod to his upbringing, a solid approach that has yielded many a compelling rap record. More often than not, though, his trips down memory lane aren't the type of inspiring tales to make us reminisce and consider one's current place, but rather head-scratching, explicit stories like the one found on "The Rememberance," which is not only completely unfit for the melancholy track but is bizarre in general and paints him as a shallow character who might not warrant such "Rememberance":
"I used to like this chick named Carla, she was fine
I wanted to put this dick up on her, every day
I used to make attempts to call her, but wouldn't give me no play
She always stalled up, always stallin'
The same day we started talkin', yeah, later that night
I ended up over her house ready for layin' the pipe
I tried to get her naked but she couldn't get her pants off
She was on her period and couldn't take the pad off
God dammit, was hopin' for havin' some future plannin'
But we never ever hooked up, I couldn't understand it
What did I do? What did I say?
To make this chick wanna go and flip another way
Another day never came for us to be together
It's like a puzzle I can't piece together
Three years later I still fiend to get her
I can't help it, I'm a sucker for a nice petite
Light-skinned freak with me in between the sheets, for real"
If you can overlook the odd content of the verse in general, Rashid's numerous other deficiencies on the mic abound. His tales lack any of the actual introspection so crucial in this type of account, and his lines rhyme in no regular or discernable patterns, tending to lump together like lukewarm oatmeal. His delivery sports minimal energy and at times even he sounds bored with the yawn-inducing beats and half-hearted verses. "Six to Seven" looks to pack an inspirational punch but largely fails due to the lack of heart in his teenage tales, and "Get You Outta My Head" treads water despairing over an ex.
When Rashid's not waxing poetic about unwilling punani, he's bogged down by tired braggadocio, insignificant and meaningless sixteens, and weak punchlines ("You're watered down as a motherfuckin' Brita filter"). "Let Go" is upbeat but wholly deficient of any lyrical substance, and the bare-bones beat does him few favors. The same problems plague snoozes such as "Surrender."
Fortunately, the second half yields bright spots that the first lacks and shows his potential as a solo artist. "All I Need You to Do" featuring Augustine and Khallee finds Rashid sporting a rare charisma via a smart hook and lively flow that mesh well with the music. "Addiction" is a second highlight, citing insurmountable penchants for cigarettes, women, and music over a stirring vocal bite. "Missing Pieces" gets the sonic balance between strings, horns, and drums just right, and Rashid is at his most heartfelt, sending love to lost friends and family. Melatone lends a solid beat for "The Xpressway," and Rashid's verses sport the cleverest conceptual flair on the LP for a tasteful performance. "Plannin' for Tomorrow" and "Mercury Retrograde" also nail the sweet, nostalgic tone Rashid aims for throughout the LP.
There's a fine line between mellow listening and dreary lullabies, and Rashid's production tends to stray too close to the latter, and too often these tracks are further bogged down by suspect rhymes. While he can be effectively nostalgic, too frequently he comes up empty as the distinct pieces of his musical product fail to fit together perfectly. Rashid's potential as a producer is apparent, and his taste for soul music could (and has) proven quite appealing in the hands of a more capable MC. "Dedication" has some winners throughout the second half, but more than anything else the album feels like a launching pad from which he might build and improve upon. Unfortunately, like too many of Chicago's class of '05, he's been silent since.
Music Vibes: 5.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 4.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 5 of 10
Originally posted: March 15, 2011