“He hated and I listened; now I’m on my missions
Now he trying to kick it cause I’m touring like the Pistons”
It’s not going to be easy to write about “It’s a Rap” by Beast, but I’m in the mood for a challenge. Let me start out with an honest truth about what I DON’T know, and that’s which of the 35+ languages of South Africa that Beast is rapping in. He’s clearly multi-lingual as he routinely switches it up between that language and English in his rhymes, often times in the middle of a bar, so just when I’ve comfortably settled into not understanding him a random line or two pops out of the frame. On a few songs he even spits entirely in English, such as the grime influenced “Sample 46.” “Started rapping just to get the honies, ended up on the main floor.” “I’m focused on rising and never ever coming down.” “I’m still the guy you can count on like a Casio.” Aside from the accent he raps like a London emcee on this one.
It’s also clear that Beast is trying to reach out beyond his already established regional popularity. The light bouncing “Something Special” featuring Skye Wanda singing the hook AND her own verse reminds me of the kind of collaboration you’d hear between Kendrick Lamar and SZA. I’m not sure he has enough juice for it to break into mainstream radio here, and if it had, I probably would have written about Beast long before now. That said it wouldn’t be out of place on any station “where hip-hop lives” that actually plays R&B half the time, and you wouldn’t be insulted to hear it.
The only thing that gets in the way for me on “It’s a Rap” is my own ignorance. I’m not multi-lingual and can barely manage a smattering of Spanish when put on the spot. Thankfully even with songs that have titles like “Mntanomuntu,” which I believe translates to “my baby,” he’s using enough English phrases that I can follow along. It feels like an accurate translation when the very first thing I hear him say is “you’re the one that I pray for” and then he adds “girl you’re bad and tough.” Yeah this is definitely a dedication to his boo in ANY language. “Ain’t nobody better than you/I swear, I swear it’s true/You done make grey skies turn blue.”
I may not know any of the 35+ languages of South Africa, but I do know that I like “It’s a Rap.” In some ways it’s a throwback album. It doesn’t seem like the trends of pitch correcting and sing-rapping have taken over the hip-hop scene there to the extent they have in North America, so Beast feels/sounds more like an emcee than many of his U.S. contemporaries. This tells me (as it should tell you) that I need to be paying more attention to rappers from African nations, and it makes me hopeful their rap scenes won’t try to copy from the best selling artists closer to where I live. Unfortunately given the global information age we live in it’s inevitable that they will.