Music can be entertaining, enjoyable, but also an emotional crutch when life becomes a lemon stand. Whenever my soul needed medicating, music was always there to give me a double dose of relief. You can lean on your favorite artist to help carry the burden of your troubles. The right song or lyric can relieve heartache, sooth rage and inspire change.
Last year was the first time I scrolled through my iTunes and couldn’t find an appropriate song to heal a growing hole. It started back in 2013, after the results of Zimmerman’s trial, I was empty, filled with an incurable sorrow. When Mike Brown was murdered the feeling of sadness and disgust was overwhelming, with each update, the crater grew larger. Helpless. I was lost in confusion, outrage and melancholy, but the most overwhelming feeling while watching the Ferguson live stream was helplessness. After playing DMX’s "Slippin" for an hour, I remembered a song that’s been sitting in my email since June, “We Want Warfare.” I pressed play and heard, “Feel like I could die today, and no one would know my story.” That line stuck me like the right hook from an ear biting boxer, something Pac would say, but it was the words of a Maryland rapper who goes by CRASHprez.
I’ve known about CRASH for a few years now, back when I first got into blogging, and was hungry to discover the best and brightest. I was a gold digger, hours rummaging through emails, finding a lot of coal, but there was some jewels hidden in the avalanche of submissions. That’s where I found a young CRASHprez, rapping over original beats with witty, thoughtful lyricism and actual concepts. The mix was rough, but I found someone that had something to say. This was around 2012, back when rappers were only freestyling over Kanye’s "Mercy" and Drake’s "Marvin Room." Anything outside the norm was refreshing.
The years rolled away. He continued rapping, improving, finding himself, and last year he dropped an EP on MLK JR’s birthday, Fear Itself. It immediately caught my attention, the album cover is Martin Luther King Jr. crucified on the cross wearing a crown of thrones. There’s a thin line between bold statements and bat-shit bananas, CRASH had bought property on the latter. A rapper on a bigger platform would’ve suffocated under the pile of thought pieces, but if he had the gall to use such an audacious cover, imagine the music.
That music sounded like it was created in a post-Trayvon society, bouncy trap beats with bars delivered from the perspective of a black boy meeting the world that believes we have gotten away from the dreams that MLK preached. It’s a narrative that’s always been in his music, but it was beginning to get very dark much like the world around him. The song "Do Somethin'” is a standout, focused on how black men are being murdered and no one is doing anything. The video expanded on the idea, he called it, “Young Black man robbed, shot, lynched in America.” CRASH depicts a black man minding his business who gets attacked by whites, robbed by niggas, and when he approaches a white woman for help she shoots him, standing her ground. The video ends with everyone coming together to lynch him. It was a statement that represented the times, from the mind of a 20-year-old college student.
Mike Brown’s murder, Eric Garner’s murder, Antonio Martin’s murder and Tamir Rice’s murder all happened last year. There was no justice. More bodies in the ground, nobody behind bars. No one held accountable. 2014 was the year of getting away with murder. After every tragedy, I would end up on the phone with CRASH. It was healthier than sitting on Twitter, typing angrily at pseudo-racists that get erections off reactions. We spent a lot time discussing just being black in America. The fear, the resilience, simply talking about our futures. If we would be allowed futures. He started pouring a lot of the feelings into his first album, More Perfect. It would encapsulate racial issues that needed to be discussed. Putting the emotions into words and making it an experience. He would bring in different features to share their perspective, but at the core, you’ll see the viewpoint of a middle class black male, pursuing a degree in journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison with rap dreams, and a father that just so happens to be a police officer. It’s also a sequel to Fear Itself, his previous EP which had skits following CRASHprez in a fictional universe where he’s killed by DJ Farrakhanvict over the Martin Luther King album cover. Well, “supposedly” killed.
I knew the album would be special after I got the first mixed draft, it was the same night Drake dropped, If Your Reading This It’s Too Late. I couldn’t let my hype train ticket expire, CRASH would have to wait until tomorrow. It was Valentine’s Day, I decided to give More Perfect the car test, running errands while the album boomed from the speakers. I mentally counted each police car I saw and by the time I was heading home, it was up to five. The album completed and as it restarted from the intro, simultaneously a police car got behind me. I got tense, my hands at ten and two, the story I wrote last year explains my issue with officers of the law (2014, The Year I Learned to Say Fuck the Police). All of a sudden, I heard a woman’s voice start to chant “Dead Man Walking.” Her voice filled the car, chills shot down my spine, I didn’t know if it was irony or a premonition, but I knew CRASH had created an album that needed to be heard.
Kendrick’s "Blacker The Berry" made me feel proud of my pigment. It was strong, it was bold, it was unapologetically black, but he doesn’t have a line like, “No chocolate kid should have to write a will.” It hurts that someone even has to say such a line, but CRASH fills the album with these moments of self-awareness that aren’t expressed enough. It’s a serious album, there’s hilariously painful skits ("Niggalude Pt. II"), lighthearted but earnest songs ("Django," "Pollo Y Porno"), but mostly, this album is dipped in death and injustice ("Leave a Note," "40/28/," "Love The Police"). More Perfect is a coming of the end story co-starring death and its many appearances. It can materialize in the form of a badge, a preacher, a peer or a double cheese burger from the dollar menu. Just look at the cover, a young, black boy and girl overlooking their dead bodies. To be frank, we are living in a time where your execution can be based solely on your skin color. Age doesn’t matter, being a child doesn’t guarantee your safety. We can pop bottles, smoke weed, make a bunch of money as distractions, but Ferguson is still happening. It can happen anywhere, at any moment, and that’s frightening. I don’t know if marching will bring a solution, but we need art that reflects this current reality, we need voices that aren’t afraid to articulate these topics. I applaud CRASH for promoting a message without coming off as a preacher. He doesn’t have the answers, but he has two eyes, two ears, one mouth, and a fearlessness to speak what he’s absorbed from 21 years of living. Instead of aiming to be Drake, he penned a modern-day, Shakespearean tragedy with Aaron McGruder-esque humor for the generation.
I don’t want to spoil the album, but it’s one of the most unique projects that I've heard this year. If Kendrick showed us a Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, CRASHprez is the Good Kid, In A Racist World. This is his emotional crutch, where he channeled 10 months of frustration and passion. Press play and walk with him from begiinning to end.
P.S.: Black lives matter.Your life matters.
[By Yoh, aka Barack Yohbama, aka @Yoh31]