Rhymesayers emcee and Los Angeles documentarian by way of his music, I Self Devine tells a contiguous story in his first of four releases from The Culture Series, LA State of Mind. The sound byte during the intro gives a bit of insight into how I Self Devine got into hip hop – it was passed down to him, “like religion”; he is making a believer of me. The mixtape has a very raw vibe and a tell-it-like-it-is style, no holds barred, whether speaking to love or social issues.
The mixtape opens up with Dream Cursher, an entrance of sorts, through which the listener becomes a part of I Self Divine’s world, or at least the world he was born into (now a Twin City-dweller). Interestingly, the title of the track explicitly calls his old stomping grounds, Watts and the surrounding areas of LA, a place where dreams are crushed, while he is living the dreams of many from those neighborhoods and abroad. The opener really sets the dynamic tension that will be felt throughout the rest of the mixtape.
Zero to 5ive tells the story of Devine’s first five years of life – life with mom and dad and an innocence in-tact. He sets his early life against his life after trauma by the use of the word “before” followed by the opposite of how life used to be. Dream Crusher is like a birds eye veiw, and with Zero to 5ive, I Self Devine zeros in on just a small portion of the big picture, the naive joy most of us experience early on in life, no matter our surroundings. The harsh reality that follows each “before” is just a precursor to what will follow in the harsh, yet never hideous, world of LA State of Mind.
The rest of the album is the unfolding of the recollections of I Self Devine as he looks back at what he describes as his “mecca”. Death In The Air is a close-up of the very real violence that Hollywood has, perhaps, desensitized us to – it is perfectly set to a very cinematic musical backdrop. Diamond Movement is the most beautiful from a musical perspective, and it has a “beautiful struggle” vibe as I Self Devine continues to tell gritty stories of growing up in Los Angeles. Justice is a yearning for just that, justice… even if it means “by any means.” The entire album is, in a sense, a call to action, but this track just does so outrightly.
LA State of Mind is chock full of very relevant social commentary, even though what takes place in American society is, often, easier to ignore than recognize – if we recognize it, it will beckon us to act. I would like to thank Brother Ali for recommending this album (via Twitter); it is an album that all who love music and who love and seek social justice should listen to, more than once.
Peace and Love,