Wish Master is proud of his double role as artist and entrepreneur. Official Recordings is the name of his Bristol-based label, where also his 2019 debut “Boombap to the Future” came out. There is, so far at least, not much going on at OR besides Wish Master’s musical ventures. For many indie artists, having a label is an essential vessle for independence. And independent labels wrote the better part of hip-hop history, make no mistake about it. On the global and on local levels.
The independent label enables artists to say what they wanna say. For those who help run labels without being at the forefront as creators themselves, it’s a similar situation. So on the level of Wish Master being able to express himself in his capacity as a solo act and as a label manager, “Coldharbour Tales” checks out. “OR, I leave a legacy, this shit’s priceless / You gotta build it, you can’t buy this”, he makes the point concisely early on in the first track, even with a dash of wordplay.
If you wanted to pigeonhole this album, you could slap the old ‘rapping about rapping’ tag on it, although what you’d probably mean is ‘rapping about rap (the artform as well as the career option)’. But what you have to understand is that those things are brought up by these artists because they pertain to their livelihood or their favorite pastime. For Wish Master, it might be a little bit of both: “I’m first to eat and never last in line / I work 9 to 5 – and in the booth 5 to 9”.
Throughout “Coldharbour Tales”, Wish Master exhibits the ambition to explain himself. Whether pointing out pandemic-induced productivity, or, a typical move, setting himself apart from competition, as he does on “Persona” together with guests Pertrelli and Tona Montona: “They just do this shit for fame / I do this shit to release the pain / We use weeds and liquors to stay sane”.
Listening more closely to Wish Master’s hustling rhetoric, the motivation seems to be more escaping from something rather than aspiring for something. More precisely, some of the words Wish uses to describe his origins are so drastic that one has to wonder what is going on in Bristol, specifically perhaps Coldharbour Road: “I’m from a place that’s dirty and grimy, filthy and horrible”…
All in all, Wish Master shows resilience. A part of a hook goes, “I take a lesson from the loss, so it’s still a win”. Clearly the entrepreneur speaking. The track in question, “They Be Wandering”, also happens to be one of the strongest efforts, also thanks to a tight flow displayed by the leading man (who through an agreeable voice can deliver a verse with some intensity). In terms of Wish’s overall performance, guest features are a welcome distraction from his shortcomings as an MC. Rhymes are definitely a crutch for Wish Master the writer as he climbs from one rhyme to the next.
Despite often issuing frustratingly basic singular statements (“I’m a mastermind”, “I keep it real”, “I’m tryina eat”, “Not everything is black and white”, etc.), Wish Master nevertheless oftentimes manages to lay out his vision and make the listener an accomplice. Any rap album “Intro” that extends the invitation “Pass the weed, pass the Riz and a crusher and a blem / If you’re ready then I’m ready, my bredder, just say when” suggests the project you’ve just entered is on the right track. (And that’s coming from someone who doesn’t smoke.)
The same can be said for the track “Doesn’t Matter”, which begins as follows:
“Livin’ at a time where it’s so oppressive
Go figure, the reason I’m manic-depressive
My biggest fear not livin’ my dreams, forever stressin’
The reason why I’m so aggressive”
Musically, co-conspirator Illinformed uniformly uses loud drums and other late ’90s underground markers, which contributes to the album’s defiant vibe. Yet “Coldharbour Tales” is not a must-hear just because it’s produced by someone quite a few others have entrusted entire albums with.
Where “Coldharbour Tales” – blatantly forsaking its title – is quite a bit lacking is in the song material. Songs about “Time” or “Gossip” are as basic as their titles suggest, and others have at best working titles. However, it absolutely succeeds as a platform for exchange between peers (guests include Verb T, Datkid, BVA, Leaf Dog – and with Axel Holy Wish Master released a collaborative full-length in 2022), even down to the classic final round-table premise of “Say What You Wanna Say”.
Vibing to Wish Master, you get the impression of someone used to envisioning things and getting them done. (Which aligns perfectly with working on getting your own business up.) He can come across as wanting to be a sort of universal guy who can do anything. Yet if you agree that rappers can forego humbleness and still champion honesty, you’ll definitely feel Wish despite him not being a top-notch lyricist. (Scroll back and click on the “Persona” clip for evidence.) That bit from “Chef’s Recipe” – “Trees’ll grow when you plant seeds in soil” – that’s hip-hop speaking. As many celebrate the genre’s official birthday this year, let’s start to listen for these kinds of truths again.