Rashad Tha Poet hails from a place known more for the grassy sounds of Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn than for jazzy infused hip-hop music. On The Journey Back, Rashad describes the multi-faceted themes that drive his art. With succinct, mellow-my-man style production Rashad is able to navigate fluidly through a curse free dialogue while still engaging the senses of even a hip-hop novice.
The Journey Back starts with a string-enhanced poem that introduces the blending of “hip-hop and spoken word.” Once the drums drop the emcee, “half part Fela Kuti, half part Malcolm X”, spits to lets us know that he is a rebel fighting against the grain of modern conventions. The presentation of his activism creates a symbiosis within his music as beats and rhymes wage peace.
On tracks like Always Grow, That’s the Way, Flowers and the poignant King All Alone the Rashad goes introspective on the feminine set. Each song describes a facet of womanhood; ranging from the independent, young lady, striving to create a worthwhile future, to the unfortunate Eve scorned. He rounds out this cipher of songs with a metaphoric comparison of ladies to all things floral.
King All Alone is his ode to requited love and the lady who stands by him as his partner and Queen. Flowers still tands out as one of the most creative and astute tracks traversing a full nursery’s worth of varietals and drawing attention to the unique qualities of women by highlighting the life giving elements that the Wisdoms possess. Overall, ThaPoet encourages men to appreciate, foster and support the ladies, the unsung heroes, that provide the world with so much.
Though commonly associated with one another, the spoken word poetry and hip-hop genres are not the same. Both have prescribed elements and norms but few and far between are artists that can volley the two. (see: Black Ice, B-Yung, Josh Hamilton) Poets have been pigeon-holed as overtly political and pseudo intellectual, while rappers have been ranked as the opposite being closely likened to minstrel show caricatures and materialistic misogynists – both of which could not be further from the truth when assessing the character of RashadThaPoet. Rashad weaves his poetry within his tracks as a supplemental addition and not a mis located space-fill.
Rashad liberates ideas of Afro-centricity and paints a description of the aspirations and muddy waters that can be American society. On Put Ya 2’s Up (video at the end of the review) he lays out why we need to throw deuces in the air to the present day social structure. The hook states, “They say give us free” which is a term popularized and derived from the motion picture, Amistad. Much like Cinque, Rashad seeks to use his voice to explain the need for liberation.
Share cropping MC’s rides off Fire, Water, Earths undertone of disdain with the commercialization and monopolization of the mainstream music industry. The artist goes from micro to macro describing the plight of an emcee who had initially pure intentions (in his music) until the demands of the record companies swayed him from the essence of his expression. Rashad intertwines this parable with his own feelings of discouragement. He remains true to his ideologies offering jazzy, lounge angled rhythms instead of the drum-heavy, over sampled repetition that has become hip hop commonplace.
Other stand-outs on the album are the hater song, Winners Do that incorporates the perfect floetic, vocal styling of Miss Imani Corrasquillo. Along with the Dilla-esque, Ode to Hip Hop and (LRBP) Lyrics Rhymes Beat Passion which both have the feel of a crowd moving from left to right, conjoined with understanding that only hip hop can create.
On To This (Just Vibe) the rapper takes us back to the 80’s and 90’s with allusions to Sega Genesis, Thundercats, and Skytel pagers. This track embodies juvenile days and its summer camp appeal would be a great addition to The Wood soundtrack circa 1999. The track also features some of the more lyrically dexterous flows on the album. Radio Daze incorporates Gil Scot Heron style poetics over the infectious Roots instrumental of the same name.
Taxi brings us home in the same way that Expansion brings you back to the cornerstone on BlackStar’s Reflection Eternal. Look around, you are right back in Nashville standing in the shadow of The Grand Ole’ Opry but instead of a young Merle Haggard in the distance, it’s RashadThaPoet with a ledger full of backpack poems and hip hop prose written seamlessly.
– Antonio Cortez Appling