Is there even a point to acknowledging an emcee for putting out material that's smarter and a lot more eclectic than the norm? I mean,†the so often grouped together De La and Roots Crew have been pushing this shit for more than a decade. And with the resurrection of Common, and†the successes of Talib, Lupe, Kanye, Mos Def, and the like, this shit isn't all that rare anymore. Enter The Rapademics, a re-release of the dope 2004 LP by Philly's own Ohene (pronounced ‘-hen-ĕ).
Ohene takes what seems to be a scientific approach to building the LP. Don't worry, you're not going to get a lot of intellectual, scholastic imagery and shit that's near impossible to understand; that's not what The Rapademics is. What Ohene does is provide a consistent and steady-themed record, on what makes a true emcee. The opening, "Forword," kicks this off by listing the real emcees in the game, new school and old.
Sticking to the formula, we get tracks like "The Epitome (of Rap)," "3rd Bar Invention," "Rhymes 4.0," and "Renaissance," and you get the idea of how talented the dude can be. Where critiquing (see: talking shit about) the current state of Hip Hop and how pathetically simple the lot of it is, Ohene opts to lead by example, spitting some the most intricate and sharply written bars this side of Common.
Special attention should be given to the man's ability to tell a story. "The Grandfather's Paradox" is a narrative where Ohene travels back in time and accidentally fucks with his grandparents hooking up, thus erasing his existence. "A Two Fold Tale" shows off his creativity. Introducing the concept of Neo-Cubism, Ohene seamlessly blends two stories together so that one plays in the left speaker and the other in the right. By telling two stories (simultaneously) about meeting a man who forces him to re-evaluate his life, Ohene makes sure your rewind button gets put to good use. As Lupe is best known for today, and Slick throughout history, O forces you to envision his world via witty wordplay and a heartfelt imagination.†
The album standout is the genius that is "The Eraz of Flow." Everyone loves to rhyme over classic beats and say their paying homage, but this track takes that idea and beats its brains in. In 93 seconds he laces together work from Run-DMC, Boogie Down Productions, De La, Das EFX, Snoop, Naugthy By Nature, Jay-Z and Craig Mack (at least!) so tightly it's almost hard to believe. Not only does the production serve as a shrine, but the rhymes form a narrative that is downright incredible. I usually don't like saying shit like, "If you don't like this, you don't like Hip Hop", but fuck, if you don't like this, you don't like Hip Hop.
A while back, in my piece on Wade Waters, I wrote, "It's funny, once a upon a time†we praised the likes of Kanye, Roots Crew, and Little Brother for being a 'breath of fresh air.'†I don't think we can say that anymore. This is Hip Hop." And truth be told, I was about to say the exact same shit again before I realized how stupid it'd be. The problem is that there's so many great acts putting out dope music that soul/funk/jazz/blues/rock infused Hip Hop is no longer unqiue. But the more I think about it, that's a pretty damn good problem to have.