Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Chris Webby shoots to the top, valuing quality and dignity over fame and fortune in 'Webster's Laboratory 2'

Webster's Laboratory 2 (mixtape) by Chris Webby
The state of Connecticut is in a state of undersupply when it comes to claiming famous rappers born or living within its borders, yet the ones it does have, like Apathy and Fake Four's Ceschi, are definitely worth their weight in gold. A bit younger but no less gifted, maybe more so if time will tell, Norwalk native Chris Webby (Christian Webster), who has been paving a lane for himself since the start of the decade with sharp complex lyrics on typically fun light subject matter, is quickly and brilliantly proving everyone who doubted him a few years back wrong, thanks to his commitment to the craft of rapping and the spark that set afire his newfound interest in social issues, norms and public policy.  His latest 2016 offering, Webster’s Laboratory 2 (released June 1st by Homegrown Music), a mixtape of high album-like quality, features the spry East Coast flame-hurler in his most mature mind state to date rapping so creatively and so personally on issues affecting people the world over, to incredible beats made all the more unique by their handpicked samples from Webby and his producers’ playlist of favorite songs from their youth, time-honoring their early influences but especially Webby’s special character and personality.  Once again, Webby shows here that he is a plowing steamroller of a emcee to be reckoned with in the industry and a true rapper by the strictest, most original definition of the word (something that's getting harder and harder to come by these days), handling subject matter relevant to all, not just some people.  

At a time when superficial trap rappers and money obsessed copy-cat artists flood the hip-hop music scene, Webby adds intelligence, insight and messages severely lacking in the genre.  Even his fun-oriented songs are infused with modern day social commentary and a fresh spin on how their pastimes should be approached.  “Knocked Down,” taking from the Chumbawamba smash hit single is very creative for being essentially a drinking song made without sacrificing good lyrics, and “Ignition” featuring Dave East is mindful of that not-too-far-off R. Kelly catchword/metaphor in its title and draws influence and inspiration from Hot Boy Juvenile by way of Webby’s delivery and technique for part of the song.  “Sativa” featuring Demrick, B-Real and Zacari and “High By The Beach” both have the courage to not be ashamed of enjoying some weed.  All the other songs display Chris Webby’s rapidly progressing growth as an artist, man and adult.  Each serves a noble purpose with heavy meaning and usefulness for any and all listeners.

“Webby’s Lab 2,” the intro, features a charged energetic Chris Webby flaunting entertainingly stacked backpacker’s lyrics.  He is anti-stuff and anti-things and admits he could no doubt use that good hip-hop dough but recognizes that his lack of proper paper does help to fuel his immense creativity and artistry.  Similarly, in “Dat Piff (Freeverse),” a fantastic traditional freestyle, he is anti-materialism and will not pipe down until he’s made it clear that he’s been working tremendously hard in the game for quite some time now.  “On My Way” is brightened by its motivational aspect and its advancement of reaching for far-off goals, and “Full Steam Ahead,” assisted by Tempe, Arizona-based rapper Futuristic, likewise champions the pursuit of goals and achievements.  “Can’t Complain” (ft. Anoyd) and “Jurassic Park” (complete with sound edits from the movie) proceed in a comparable vein.  In the first, Webby is grateful in life for what he has and where he is, and in the latter, he is confident in his vocal communicative abilities and aware of his greatness since too few seem to acknowledge it at the adequate level and degree.  

The pièce de résistance, “Questionnaire,” is just a wonderful crystal clear rap song in which Chris Webby holds a candle to the status quo with his mind boggled about how people allow greed, deviance, destruction and evil to shape world affairs, revealing his awareness of all the injustice and wrongdoing going on right in front of us.  With help from Jaye Michelle, “Imperfect” discusses mental problems like insecurity and anxiety and how substances simply do not cure them.  Webby does have an adult point of view on the matter of recreational drugs however, testifying in “Inebriated” that some types under the right conditions and in the right amounts are simply not as bad as they’re talked up to be, but from experience, he also knows just what drugs will get people in trouble.  In the last track “Chemical Romance,” he raps about breaking up as it were with Molly (MDMA), Lindsay (cocaine) and Sandra (Xanax), in perfect analogical form so he’s surely no outsider looking in.  He’s dabbled in these things, and he knows just what to avoid and what is safe.  Very quickly, two other noteworthy gems are “Outside The Box” with another Arizonan, Sincerely Collins, and “Cali Dreamin’” showcasing guest Jitta on the Track.  The first exudes optimism with the message being to think critically, independently and for yourself, and the second expresses Webby’s joy of making it big out West where dreams are born to a rerecorded sample of The Mamas & The Papas’ original “California Dreamin’” (1965).

Chris Webby and his guests and producers have positively worked their butts off overtime in the lab to bring us this very deserving, very worthy sequel to Webby’s 2011 Webster’s Laboratory mixtape.  The extent to which Webby forwards the art and integrity of emceeing is beyond measure here.  He’s very serious about taking hip-hop to greater peaks and heights, plus he’s gone from being seen as a fly-by-night sensation in rap to a down-for-the-cause, in-it-for-the-long-haul practitioner of moving, musically driven rhyme-poetics with both a hard edge and likable sensibilities.  He’s grown-up, lyrically amazing, and majestic side by side with his productions and so much more than a party boy here, something that some folks thought he might be confined to since his 2014 debut LP Chemically Imbalanced.  That project had glimmers of hope, but it wasn’t until now that they’ve come to full fruition via Webster’s Laboratory 2, an intensely pleasurable, insanely creative and respectful mixtape of grand album-proportions.  Give it up for the genius mad scientist of rhyme himself, Chris Webby!

5 out of 5 stars

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