Elder statesmen in rap are about as rare as young cats making noise with the Blues. While the latter is an old man’s genre, Hip Hop seems stuck being both performed and consumed by cats barely past driving age. Even rarer is the older dude who has been involved in rap for years yet has evolved according to his own life and not because of the game. Sure, the good Dr. Dre is still making hot music, but he hasn’t switched up the core of his gangsta shit formula much in almost twenty years. And the Green-Eyed Bandit is still kicking the funk, the whole funk and nothing but. But like De La Soul and Masta Ace have done with their recent releases, Storm the Unpredictable accomplishes something special with “A2: What Should Have Been;” chiefly, he has made a record that reflects his status as a conscious, responsible, sober and world-weary adult, without losing any of the sheer dope Hip Hop vibe we all want and need.
The album starts out, as most do nowadays (in what is becoming an alarming trend), with a would-be throwaway intro in which a sweet female voice basically reads off the production credits for the album to come. I said would-be because the beat she talks over is an ultra-soulful 9th Wonder sound-alike that shouldn’t have been wasted like this. Fortunately there are no more skits for the duration and Storm gets right into the meat of it on track two with “The Reintroduction,” where he displays from the jump a tight-ass flow suggesting in equal measure AZ (rapid, multi-syllabic rhyme structures), Kool G (non-stop delivery), Masta Ace (grown man tones) and Chuck D (hyper literate and articulate, without losing any funkiness in the bargain). Storm is also apt to literally drop science frequently on “A2,” as he went to college for Biotechnology. The uncommon, technical jargon can get a little heavy at times, but he never quite abuses the science slang enough to grow numb from it. Throughout the album, Storm finds time to also kick real truths such as on “Oh My God,” where he finds true game in keeping a woman happy for twenty years. Peep this verse from the same song, which displays Storm’s unique combination of wit, edutainment and ill-techniques:
“Ain’t nobody seeing me
Retinal detachment occurs when attempting to add me to optical sceneries
No greenery in my lungs
These rappers will take the plunge
For even considering testing the OG in me
Shorty, that’s lyrically speaking
I need that oxygen
So sick with spittin’ my writtens covered in toxic phlegm
Used to see videos (really doe?!)
I stopped watching them
‘Cause they the worst thing for my people since the cotton gin”
Most songs, such as “Get Your Weight Up” and “Darker the Berry,” take issues and ideas both entertaining and thoughtful as their core, so repeat listens stay fresh. Topics both personal and political (or frequently both) get a refreshing treatment under Storm’s guidance. In his world, the realest realness is caught up in mortgage rates and dodging creditors, institutional racism, and dealing with both newborn babies and dying relatives. Other songs like “All About” and “Grown Folks Biz” keep this dope introspection but are watered down slightly by Storm repeating the opening phrase in every line (“I’m all aboutâ€¦”), making a few would-be great songs merely really good. The beats are equally prestigious. As they aren’t dominated by any one producer, Storm gives the reigns to a handful of collaborators who all bring their A-game to the party, making for a surprisingly unified finished product. Utilized frequently in this timeless sonic landscape are funky drums, repetitious-yet-still catchy instrument loops, and the occasional scratch or vocal sample to send things over the top. Included on the album are three remixes, and though I didn’t get a chance to peep the originals, I gotta assume that these are all improvements and not just empty exercises in change. Like Storm’s lyrically content and delivery, the production belies current trends in rap in favor of the basic but endlessly fresh Hip Hop formulas derived over the last twenty years. DOPE: to me there’s no better way to describe a tight MC attacking a hot track.
Late on the album, Storm uses the song “Please Forgive Me” to apologize to those who would disagree with the way he makes music and lives life. I suppose it has come to this, in a world and culture where “being conscious is now a liability,” that he has to apologize for being humble, not spitting ignorance, and not selling dope. No need to apologize to me, pop. With the release of “A2,” Storm not only refuses to dumb-down his music and message, he also knows it isn’t necessary, seeing his people as “kings and queens” in this. That’s what I call keeping it real.