Written by: The Bro
Just A Dope Rap Album
Earlier this year, hiphop finally became recognized as the most dominant genre of music in the United States. The designation may have come as a shock for some, but for many it seemed obvious for the last few years. Hip hop has a vice grip on culture in America. Yet for all of its influence, many still struggle to categorize the genre. Whereas no one has a problem differentiating heavy metal from alt rock or hard rock, many still view hip hop as a Borg-like entity, where the present must mirror the past. The lack of defined and well recognized sub-genres is a puzzling development, especially for a genre that should have no problem housing Rakim and Lil Yachty, or Kendrick Lamar and whichever “Lil” rapper will emerge from the primordial goo of SoundCloud.
Perhaps one of the oldest, and oddest, differentiating issues arises between male and female rappers. For years, female rappers have been designated to their own pool. “She’s good, for a female rapper” or “she’s a good female rapper” are common statements. But a rapper is a rapper. There are no physical advantages or disadvantages at play. If rap is a sport, it’s a mental one, with the imagination being the most equal of playing fields. And on her debut album, Laila’s Wisdom, Rapsody firmly stamps her claim as one of the best in the game.
The bar is set quite high on Power. It almost feels like a statement record, where Rapsody goes toe to toe with Kendrick Lamar. Over one of 9th Wonder’s funkiest beats, Rapsody examines power while effortlessly expressing her own on the mic.
One of the most evident things about the album, beyond how dope Rapsody is, is how well the album is put together. From the rhymes, concepts, beats, and sequencing, it’s a very well executed project. Rapsody manages to side step some of the most fatal faults of typical “backpack” records, namely with how one dimensional they sound. The album shifts between sounds without losing focus, while also giving it much needed energy and excitement. Pay Up comes alive with synths and guitar licks reminiscent of ATCQ’s recent album, while the next track, Ridin, breaks out the 808s for your car system.
Lyrically, Rapsody has never just been a rappity rap rapper. Nearly every track here feels personal. Black And Ugly describes her experience growing up as a dark skinned black girl, even tackling hair standards (“My hair don’t look natural so they question my blackness/Rachel [Dolezal] got over, Guess that’s a fucked up standard”). On U Used 2 Love Me she tackles heartbreak and lust, assisted by the always impressive Terrace Martin. Tracks like this further highlight how well Rapsody has managed to present herself on record as a full fledged, flawed human and not just a talented rapper lecturing the audience from the clouds.
Rapsody displays her storytelling throughout the album, but perhaps nowhere as impressive as the outro track, Jesus Coming. Over a haunting gospel sample, Rapsody weaves through three stories of loss. It’s an emotional standout. It would be criminal not to point out now 9th Wonder has produced unquestionably the two best album outros of 2017 (DAMN.’s Duckworth, and now this). It further highlights just how well crafted the album is, beginning to end.
Laila’s Wisdom is a triumph. Outside of some repetitive “love tracks” the album is largely without blemish. It would be awkward and disingenuous to enjoy such a work and say it’s great for a female rapper, or it’s a great female rap album. It’s a great rap album. Period.