Album: Classic Material
Rating: 7 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
Now based in Baltimore, Wordsmith’s past as the son an army officer saw him travel and reside in NY, NJ, Virginia, Georgia, Delware, Texas, Kansas, and Germany at one point or another. This constant travelling, Wordsmith found hiphop as the perfect outlet to express his thoughts on the movement in his life, and was influenced by the classic artists of his youth – PE, Krs, Icecube etc.
His mission with “Classic Material” is to produce a longplayer of ‘vintage hiphop’, with quality beats and production, matched up with real lyrics. “I grew up on good MCs and creative songs, but Hiphop is poisoned to the point that you can not have a hit unless its a pop crossover. I am trying to change that with this album.”
Now the cynical among us will already be able to reel of countless cats, underground and mainstream who have already spun this yarn before. Most fell by the wayside without ANY recognition due to their beats or rhymes being unable to back up their grand ideals… others got a foothold in the industry but switched up their whole steelo once the money hit their bank accounts. So excuse me, for approaching this with a healthy dose of scepticism…
After a wobbly start with the ‘sound-like-it-was-cobbled-together-in-a-bedroom’ misfiring of ‘Distortion’, things improve dramatically with ‘Bring Tha Noise’. It would be easier to assume after biting the track name, and being filled with urges to ‘bring it back to the essence’, that Words would sample or reference the Public Enemy cut at some point here. He proves however that he isn’t for jumping on that particular bandwagon, by laying down a superb string sample over a simple but effective drum track. Lyrically and vocally, Wordsmith definitely impresses. Yes he does sound a little like Talib Kweli, but he just SOUNDS like him – he doesn’t rhyme like him. There’s no sprint to fit all your words into one line the way our ex-Rawkus chum does – Words is steady and confident with his.
‘Power’ and ‘The Bluelight Lounge’ also impress – ‘Power’ with its bouncy backing track, holds surprises with its hard lyrical content, while ‘Bluelight’ is an on-point description (over laidback jazz strings) of the fantasy Hiphopper’s club, where drink and debauchery are encouraged while Grandmaster Flash, Run DMC, and Redman perform live on stage.
At the start of ‘Unplugged’, Wordsmith explains that this cut would be best played in front of a live audience with a live band. Unfortunately for him, either his band, or his software-to-make-his-beats-sound-like-a-live-band isn’t up to much. Everything here is a little too glossy, and even though Words valiantly delivers his lyrics, this cut is a bit of a letdown.
‘Step In The Arena’ sees our second example of famous-track-name-biting, but again all he does is bite the name – there’s no trace of a Gang Starr cut anywhere on here. As with ‘Bring Tha Noise’ its almost as if Wordsmith is begging you to diss him for jacking track names, before knocking you back into your seat with the quality of his efforts.
In fact, the quality of not just this, but the majority of the tracks on here is astonishing. From ‘Coming To U Live’ where Words’ battle-focused rhymes sit comfortablely over a sullen backing track, to the bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed ‘Mic Check Section’, to the gorgeous bonus cut ‘Lost Chapters’ which features Words and his cousin Roc Marciano (ex-Flipmode) trading verses over an addictively funky guitar lick; on each of these cuts, and most of the others, the effort to maintain a high standard, and fulfill the ideals discussed at thet beginning is clearly evident.
There are a few minor hiccups (‘First Love’ and ‘Legend Of The Hitman’ where Words shows he needs to brush up on his storytelling skills a little) but overall this is an impressive debut effort (although one that perhaps needs to be packaged a little better.)