I'm a 35-year-old, white girl who grew up in the suburbs. Before you think I'm not qualified to review a rap album, let me tell you something else. I fell in love with rap when I first heard...wait for it...Grand Master Flash! Back in the first days of MTV and there were only about 100 music videos (not really, but you know what I'm getting at here).
The first thing that hit me when I first heard rap music was the beats, naturally. I. Love. Bass. Back then there wasn't as much bass to be had as there is now. I've been listening to rap evolve for decades and I've loved all the new beats that have come out through the years. Experiments with sounds has led to some fantastic music in the rap genre. Now let's talk about lyrics.
Lyrics in rap are a completely different animal. Back in the early days, there was "nasty rap", but a bulk of it contained lyrics about the artist's skills as a rapper. Rap artists would say in their songs that they were the best rapper and demonstrate their skills. Then another artist would do the same thing and try to top the first artist. The evolution of "common" rap lyrics has been quite disappointing to me. Most of the rap I listened to after the 80s had the beats I wanted, but didn't have the same kind of lyrics. They were still talking about who was better, but it didn't have anything with skills as a rapper anymore. The lyrics were talking about how many girls they have and how much sex they get while they're touring. Then they talked about how much money they were making and how many cars and houses they had. I started turning to artists like DJ Bassboy because I got the beats and bass I wanted and didn't have to worry about lyrics at all. These days it's all about who went to jail the most times and how many guns they have and how many times they've used them. Most rappers out there today are making, as Deadman puts it, "cookie-cutta ass gangsta shit". It's despicable!
Is this a generalization? Absolutely! I'm speaking about the bulk of rap music out there has evolved this way. I totally recognize the artists like the Fresh Prince, for example. He's stuck to his guns and managed to be one of the most successful rappers in the business without compromising his moral responsibility as a popular artist. I have nothing but respect for rappers of his ilk. That's not the "mainstream" of rap these days, however. That being said...
Tombstone Da Deadman a.k.a. Rational Warrior (second name is totally apt btw) has produced the most cerebral album I've heard from just about any artist in any genre. There are albums that have songs with important messages, but only a song or two most times. Rise of the Infidel has an important message in every song.
The first person I thought of when I heard this album for the first time was Busta Rhymes. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that Deadman is probably a fan, as am I. His voice sounds like Busta, but his style is also similar with its polysyllabic beats. That alone shows a skill that I admire in a rap artist. Busta is one of my favorite artists for that exact reason, so Deadman kinda "had me at hello" in that aspect.
He takes that style and puts his own spin on it with some wonderfully intelligent lyrics that encompass all those things that non-believers have been fighting against for decades. He addresses non-believer morality, the weaving of religion into our politics and schools, manufactured persecution of religion , superstition in general and a lot more. He also incorporates clips from the likes of Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens as well as clips from movies and shows with excellent form. He even invoked the imprisonment of Galileo FTW!
The overall feeling of the album, to me, was angry, but in a constructive way. It's clear that he's tired of all the same old bullshit we all, as non-believers, deal with - dead horses that the uninformed (willingly or otherwise) people keep beating on, hoping they'll get up again. He didn't make this album for money. He didn't make it to be liked. It seems to me that he made this album to give all non-believers a voice. He made it to tell the believers what they can do with their childish stories and bigoted legislation and to tell them to provide evidence or shut up and go away. He made it to light a fire under your ass to join the cause because this problem of a possible theocratic America will not only NOT go away, but will get worse if we don't do something. He made this album to get some things off his chest in a creative way. He made it to encourage others not only to step out of the closet, but to speak out against these irrationalities that the ultra-religious want us to take as fact. He made this album for the same purpose that the Reason Rally was organized, I think, and it's fantastic!
The first song, called Tribute, is a shout-out to our beloved Hitch. Just some jazzy background music with a couple of carefully selected Hitchens clips. This song made me smile. Props, Deadman, for this very simple, but beautiful tribute.
Wandering God Rant is a wonderful track! It's almost like a blog set to music. Dare I call it a "blong"? He offers his thoughts on how god seemed to keep changing residences as we learned more about the universe, and still does. I gotta say, it's one of my favorite tracks on the album.
My absolute favorite song, Silence Us, uses a clip spoken by Captain Picard from the Star Trek: Next Generation episode Who Watches the Watchers. Picard refuses to help plunge an entire civilization "back into the Dark Ages" by posing as the Overseer, the god of the Mintakans. This is the "speak out" song of the album. It features Greydon Square, another of my favorite atheist artists. This is where Deadman supposes that Theocrats are trying to do the same thing to modern day non-believers that the church successfully did to Galileo. I would call this a "warrior chant". It's the kind of song that draws people together. It's the kind that makes you want to throw your fist in the air and run into battle. I love it!
Whether you're a fan of rap or not, this is an album I recommend everyone listen to at least once and share with others. This is the kind of music that should be mainstream. It's intelligent, creative, it's got a good beat, and you can dance to it. Thanks, Rational Warrior!