Page Kennedy, Dominique Larue, duo Two Things and brusque backpacker Outpatient are the features to watch this St. Patrick’s Day weekend. This time, we’re tying up loose ends, since there were so many wonderful albums that came out last week. Some had to wait, but not anymore. Those albums will be covered here. It’s all a work in progress, but we at SwurvRadio have your back.
Torn Pages by Page Kennedy (Kennedy Entertainment)
Detroit actor/rapper Page Kennedy – TV programs Weeds and Blue Mountain State are just two of his many acting credits – has finally taken the plunge into a full length studio debut, and it’s paying off in spades, thanks to Kennedy’s quality rapping on meaningful issues over solid beats.
Straight away in the “Reintroduction,” Kennedy makes clear he’s a substantive lyrical rapper, not about the bling or things, and he proves it from then ’til end. Wasting no time, he then details an encounter with the police resulting in a shooting for petty reasons, follows that up with a modern timely tale of the ups and downs of Uber driving, proves the pursuit of popularity and empty fun can come at the cost of one’s soul and resists overeating and weight gain before the pointed subjects take a seat very briefly midpoint.
Still, Kennedy remains tough in “Haters Be Like,” “Assassins” and “Testing Me” with heavy spitters King Los, Royce 5’9”, Mr. Porter, Fred The Godson and Elzhi, who all bring nothing short of super clever wordplay. Kennedy is back to the salt mines thereafter, throwing down on moochers, bills and making ends meet with his tools of crazy nice storytelling, and from there, PK’s personal struggles get worked out in the conclusion.
Kennedy talks from the heart and soul on growing up in Detroit, getting into trouble but also into rap, hesitant yet determined to face the past demons that are his neglectful mom’s mistakes and foul influence on him in the emotional “Renee (Momma)” but there’s learning to be had for him and us. Loaded coda and title track “Torn Pages” has deep therapeutic pockets for Kennedy (and us) in his recovery from purported sex addiction, falling in love with the one and being separated from his kids.
There are obviously so many problems hashed out, handled and gotten over on the disc that the whole thing seems like a big mess, but a relatable one for many. Solutions and the proper reaction to take for each issue may be lacking on Kennedy‘s itinerary – they’re simply implied at times, not explicitly stated – but Torn Pages will continue to be highly lyrical, in depth hip-hop music with relevant rapping-points and some great storytelling.
There’s no getting away from the despair in the tone of Dominique Larue’s latest, the Help Me I’m Poor EP. The Columbus, Ohio native begins her studio project rapping on feelings of being lost and on the edge from living without (“IDK”), but her resolve tightens up further on. Her independent decision making is plenty evident, and we begin to really understand the “f*ck it” response to being poor in “Do What I Wanna.” The theory is that under poverty, things seem so hopeless no matter what and circumstances can only get better so you might as well let loose and have fun.
It’s from that philosophy that Larue finds the energy to rock out in tracks “Coin Toss” and “You May Stay.” She gets serious in concluding track “Help Me Please” to fight off some of her depression. HMIP is not politically jampacked but at least begins to look at and handle economic inequality. The empathy-generating EP may be hard to listen to in spots but Larue‘s lighter humorous side, in the interludes especially, softens the blow and her emcee skills will have your respect.
Rapping duo Two Things provide a fine example of maturity in the rap game with their I Am I BeLP. With inflated tones of voice and fine rhymes but also seriousness of subject matter most importantly, the emcee twosome from Pine Valley, California are hard edged from being the victims of theft in “UNLV Starter Cap” and right afterward in “Back To Coney” but they also consider and embrace the opposite side of the spectrum – the tender, loving and joyous aspects of life.
“Love Song” attempts to hold on to a romantic connection that seems all but destined to split apart, “Theme Song” with its splendid piano/horn combo is nothing but a fun interlude in the heaviness of the project, and “Pink” is blindsided by the bliss and change of growing up, sacrificing and accepting the responsibility of raising a child, a baby girl in this case. There isn’t much by way of shock or audacity from the low-on-the-radar rap troupe, but I Am I Be remains an uncontrived piece of healthy hip-hop music no matter what.
Hardcore backpack rap, while mean and layered, can be pretty bland all by itself. That’s why its practitioners need some interesting talking points, guests and production to be worth a damn. Veteran, New Mexico rhyme-spitter Outpatient, author of album Incorrigible and other works, fills his new LP, Ascended Basterd, not just with coarse complex wordplay but some conscious topics, notably failed policy, unequal unjust economics and fabricated, twisted news stories in the album’s attractive centerpiece “Idiocracy.”
Credited guests Sean Price and Pacewon among others, Outpatient‘s satirical jabs at popular white rappers in “Refundz” and simply the richness of all the rhyme verses constitute the remaining major draws. The ad-nauseam boasting, bullying and vulgarity reach a tipping point regularly so what should have been a lively effort in Ascended Basterd instead becomes a dark dismal effort with only a few pockets of sunshine.