It was easier for Rahim Samad to find us than the other way around, as he first sent us an album for review in 2008. If you go to the VaultClassic website Jay Soul linked, it’s gone. If you go to the Facebook site the “Broken Barriers II” press kit suggests is the new home VaultClassic Records, it has apparently either been removed or deleted. He also gets confused in Google searches for a “telecommunications religious authority” and doesn’t list any albums for him more recent than 2004. The one and only place I guarantee you’ll find him is on Twitter as @RahinSamad. Feel free to drop him a tweet and say this review is up. (You can also follow the site @RapReviews.)

The host of this release is “Miami’s mixtape champ DJ 2Nen.” I confess to being entirely unfamiliar with this Floridian kingpin, but as noted we’re not unfamiliar with Samad, as his last album got an 8 out of 10 from Jesal. That made me hopeful about this new release, especially given the title would lead one to believe Samad is the kind of emcee who wants to reinvent hip-hop instead of conforming to cliches. He’s clearly serious about his craft and the culture as a whole, seeking to educate listeners with “Hip Hop 101”:

“Before Viacom and Clear Channel knew it
This was just a thing to do
In the streets of the Bronx, compete in the dark
Kool Herc would play beats in the park
Get the biggest crowd, competin would start
with Pete Jones then came Grandmaster Flash
They never seen a deejay who could cut so fast
They came to emcee when the mic was passed
It was just the thing to do
No one thought it would last…”

Samad’s point is of course that it did last, and grew into the culture that is both celebrated and exploited on an every day basis by people all over the globe. I’m not sure today’s listeners are interested in the education (if they were KRS-One would be selling more) but I appreciate the effort all the same. Vocally he’s tough to put a finger on. Jay dubbed him “threatening Biggie” and “distanced Nas” rolled into one, but that’s not quite it. Even though he’s a New York rapper who moved to Tampa, he actually reminds me more of Edo.G mixed with a “Crooklyn” era Special Ed. Listening to Rahim is like driving down a three lane highway yet hugging the audible middle between the two.

With everything that he’s got going for him, “Broken Barriers II” is still something of a mixed bag. I’m going to give Rahim at least a PARTIAL pass for that, such as the R&B stylings of “Set U Free” featuring YNot. No Travel Properly.” For no reason there’s an entire “Guilty Simpson Scratch” which the insert openly acknowledges is Madlib beat jack. “Ride Da Riddim” feels like a throwaway attempt to appeal to Carribean fans, but he’s no ‘eavy D pon de chatter – it just doesn’t work. Guests like PK the Gift and Eyzenpowa on “Think” and Mic Deluxx on “What’s So Wrong” just water things down further – they’re not bad but they’re not who I wanted to hear on this short (under 40 minutes) album. The bottom line is that Samad is obviously talented and serious about the music and culture, but much like trying to find him online, he’s everywhere and nowhere all at once. I hope his next release is a return to the form Jay Soul found so appealing on his last effort.

Rahim Samad :: Broken Barriers II
6Overall Score