In honor of her latest digital retail release, Rapsody is offering up the Beauty and the Beast EP for full, free streaming exclusively in The DJBooth.
Follow-up to last year's acclaimed She Got Game LP, the project packs a total of 10 brand new cuts from the Carolina repper and longtime DJBooth fave. Included are reader-approved singles "Hard to Choose," "Drama" and "Godzilla." West Coast phenom Problem is the sole featured guest on the set, which boasts boardwork by Eric G., Khrysis and Nottz, as well as expert production from label boss 9th Wonder. Heather Victoria provides vocal support throughout.
This EP is now also available for direct digital purchase via Jamla/EMPIRE.
With projects like She Got Game and (the appropriately titled) Idea Of Beautiful, Rapsody has shown her mastery of pure, no frills hip-hop. Under the guidance of 9th Wonder, she has helped Jamla Records become on of the best, most-respected indie labels in the game today. Now, for staunch, snobby hip-hop heads like myself (who often bemoan the lack of depth and passion in rap today) Rapsody has been so compelling because her music has all a hip-hop head could ever need. Well, almost...
Ironically, it's the beast side she's been missing. Though Rapsody is one of my favorite emcees in the game, I have been waiting for her to expand her horizons, and try something different. I wrote about on my review for fellow Jamla rapper GQ's Rated Oakland album:
"I love soul beats more than anything else, which is why Jamla is one of my favorite labels around. Soul beats are like chicken and mashed potatoes; comfort food I could eat everyday if I had to...but I don't want to. Sometimes Jamla's albums feel a bit formulaic, where it is soul beat after soul beat, all with a similar sound and style. It's not the worst thing in the world, but, I have been waiting for a Jamla project different than all the others, that shows the range I know they are capable of."
So my internal challenge to Rapsody was to get out of her comfort zone, and get a little angry to show people that she really is one of the best emcees around even if it means hopping on something like a trap beat (sometimes you have to beat them at their own game). Heading into Beauty and the Beast, I was hoping to see more beast than beauty and that's exactly what we got.
Rapsody is a full-fledged monster on this EP. It is most evident in songs like "Godzilla" and "Drama"; especially "Drama". While I can't say with certainty, I am quite sure I have heard every song Rapsody has made and I haven't heard one like "Drama." Ever. Soul Council stalwart Khrysis also steps out of his comfort zone, creating a sleuthing, menacing beat littered with subtle effects all of which add to the intensity without diminishing the complexity or "real" rap vibes; it's a trap beat for those who don't listen to trap. And then the intensity is kicked up a notch by Rapsody who dishes out some determined, cut-throat bars with a more leaning, gritty flow.
Now, of course, like any good hip-hop fan, I can't be satisfied. While I respect and appreciate the effort, it doesn't sound like Rapsody is exactly at home here. In fact, it's the more traditional efforts that go harder and evoke more emotion from me than "Drama" (and we'll get to those). Still the Beast side serves a greater purpose. Because "Drama" is such an escape form the norm, it makes those more expected Rapsody cuts we've come to know and love jump out a little bit. The fact that she experiments a little bit, and tries something new, makes me appreciate those more traditional Jamla efforts more. Rapsody can change back into the form we are accustomed to, and after having unleashed the beast, it makes these traditional efforts even stronger by contrast.
Case in point, "The World" (also produced by Khrysis). Atop a flip of Lauryn Hill, Rapsody takes a more calculated approach, but still has a a knifing flow that sounds much more commanding than "Drama." Although the effort is under two minutes, it is one of the strongest lyrical efforts on the album. It is also true with "Hard To Choose." The passion and intelligence she displays makes it one of the best individual performances of the year. To hear someone so open honest, and most importantly passionate about making hip-hop better is so refreshing. Where those typical "beast" artists front, lie and exaggerate Rapsody is brutally honest, even challenging the audience to be better; the result is a beautiful, thought provoking effort that gets my blood pumping more than "Drama." In fact, this might be one of Rapsody's best songs in her impressive library. So too is "The Man", where Rapsody muses on masculinity and fatherhood over a emotional, soul-driven beat form Eric G. Having both of these styles on the same EP just makes me appreciate her range even more.
While Beauty And The Beast might silence some doubters, for Rapsody her work isn't over; there is no storybook ending. As she often discusses, Rap and Jamla are criminally underrated and dismissed because they aren't flashy and choose substance over style. Rapsody must continue to grow and develop that aggressive side while still delivering the beauty we have all come so accustomed to. It's a difficult, never-ending task, but nothing good ever came easy, and Rapsody's proven she's no stranger to work.
[Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth.net. His favorite album is “College Dropout,” but you can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @LucasDJBooth.]
DJBooth Rating - 4 Spins