Our big guy here wrote an editorial the other week on the subject of Paying Dues, Internet Style. I wholeheartedly agree with the assessment that YouTube views or e-mail blasts or that one song being streamed on a couple of blogs don’t make you an accomplished rap act. Your act needs to hold up in real life. On stage, in interviews, in the studio, on the dancefloor, in front of the camera, etc. It’s a trial-and-error experience that awaits on the other side of your front door. And yet, with the internet having become inevitable in a music career, artists can go through similarly trying times online as they do offline. Most of the time I hear of an up-and-coming rapper for the first time, I also learn that he already has a number of mixtapes (today meaning: a collection of audio files given away free of charge) on his resumé. The online mixtape grind can be identified as one field where aspiring artists actually do pay their dues, internet style.

Boston’s Moufy is presently a mixtape rapper, and the title of his latest, “Humble Season,” suggests that he’s experienced some downs along with the ups. As the music plays, however, it becomes evident that on his fourth round on the mixtape circuit Moufy remains optimistic. “The most powerful man on this Earth is a nigga who been through the struggle,” he assures himself on the R&B throwback “Royal.” The closing “Top of the World” is – with the notable help of singer Kenzie – a skillful rendition of the ‘Dreaming big’ theme that has been so popular in rap and pop in recent times. Video single “One Day” treads similar territory with symphonic synths, a Down South rhythm section, tuned singing, emotive lyrics and the already somewhat dated key word “Hustlin’.”

Tracks like these do little to distinguish Moufy from every other aspiring rapper trying to be the next Wiz Khalifa. “New England Rollin” and “Tell Me Somethin” are so obviously a product of their time that they’re a waste of everybody’s time, Moufy’s included. This is all the more regrettable as initially “Humble Season”‘s ambitions are of artistic nature. “Humility (Intro)” is a carefully orchestrated, rock-leaning Mike Irish production that highlights the rapper’s ability to put emotion into his writing and performance. “Do I really know what success is gonna bring?” he ponders in the first verse, which gets more intense with every bar, a feat he repeats in the second verse:

“If fights gave you time, I’d probably be a lifer
Roxbury heart, I promise there’s nothing like us
To be boss here, no degree is required
Just fire, if gangs feel inspired
to seek revenge for shootin’, your hood deprived
Gold chains and drug money, shit, what’s not to admire?
Mama don’t got a job – ain’t cause she chose to retire
Situations are dire, but these niggas got answers
Wanted to be like them, I wasn’t pullin’ my pants up
All life ‘on dogs’, added slang to the grammar
My hood, our blocks, trap spots, gunshots
Law enforcement for what? Hell nah, fuck cops
Train of thought – they the reason why niggas is locked
Shit, teachers switched schools when they ran into me
Young Malcolm X, diagnosed with ADHD
So surprisingly, at 15 got an offer
to attend school alongside America’s daughters
40,000 a year, let sympathy be the sponsor
Only nigga in the classroom, that shit got awkward
Cause in my head I harbored Roxbury problems
3 schools in 4 years, ain’t no principals want him
Junior year discipline committee told me to leave
Let my pen bleed just like that, music’s the dream
Burst all to the seam, shit ain’t what it seems
Lost a brother to the game, that’s a scar on me
Now it’s all on me to find destiny
While fightin’ all these demons that won’t let me sleep
Till I rest in peace my words’ll speak for me
Soon the world’ll see that hip-hop runs through me
Welcome to Humble Season”

The gripping opener is followed by the equally compelling “American Baby Shower” and “Welfare Line,” which seem based on Moufy’s family history, recounting a Latin-American woman’s migration to the United States and eventual motherhood. It’s on these tracks (“Block Yo” belongs in the same category) that Moufy emerges as a fresh new voice with something to say. Whether “Humble Season” presents a new side of the “black Latino” from Boston, and if so which one exactly, I can’t say. What I do know is that it would be foolish to knock a young rapper for making his generation’s music and hoping to make a living with that music. Even moreso when he simultaneously comes up with material that holds up to critical scrutiny. Still the phase of paying dues has never been a pointless extra lap, it’s a period of apprenticeship full of lessons to learn and that’s where we find Moufy in 2013. Welcome to Humble Season.

Moufy :: Humble Season
5Overall Score