Wordsmith - Vintage Experience
While this solo debut album doesn't sound like a 1988 or 1994 time-capsule, it's carried with an honesty that Wordsmith longs for the substance in Rap like he heard in his childhood friends.
As an Army baby, Wordsmith called many places home, with frequent relocating. Like many in such circumstances, the now-Maryland resident had some of his most lasting relationships not with his transient peer groups in Germany, New York, Georgia or Texas, but in emcees on the records and CDs he collected. Although Wordsmith rhymes as a youthful 30 year-old, his previous collaborative album with Chubb Rock (Bridging The Gap) and his Vintage Experience tip the hand that this is restorative Hip Hop music. While this solo debut album doesn't sound like a 1988 or 1994 time-capsule, it's carried with an honesty that Wordsmith longs for the substance in Rap like he heard in his childhood friends.
From its cover - including album covers from Run-DMC and Jeru Da Damaja, one can easily gather that Wordsmith is above all else, concerned with Rap music. Vintage Experience is a lot of that - rapping about Rap. "The Next Level Experience" is followed by "Hip-Hop 2.0" which is followed by "Hip-Hop & Beyond." Sadly, Words brings little new life to these topics of awaiting record contracts and promises of advancing the culture. Although it's a topic frequently broached by the late Tupac Shakur, Wordsmith's "An Ode To My Sons" is much more insightful from the softer spoken emcee. Here, the verses are met beautifully with Kimia Collins' powerful chorus in the most intimate moment of the album. The same is true of "Gods Morning" , the next track. The spiritual journey is enhanced by synth hits, as Wordsmith shares his meditative morning outlook on life and the world. It's not something everyone can relate to, but the honesty in the words makes it something many wish to aspire to.
As heard in the keyboard accents on "Gods Morning," production plays a big role on Vintage Experience. However, unlike Blueprint's 1988 or Kaze & 9th Wonder's Spirit of '94, the "vintage" of this album are more in mind than in sound. Interlude soundbeds provided by Professa throughout the album are much more Kid Cudi than they are Kid N' Play. That's not a bad thing though, as they are some of the best beats on the project. Capish's production "Block Banger" does not live up to its name, as the overdone composition appears to have Lil Jon/Shop Boyz elements, while Wordsmith delivers his lyrics in a Pitbull-like fashion of extended cadence and changing tempos. Wordsmith sounds his most unique and most comfortable with longtime Canadian production partner Strada. From their re-worked "As The Art Fades Away" song to "Rock The Crowd," Strada allows Wordsmith to sound both wise and young, energized but comfortable. Together they find this album's balance, although sequences take leaps from fast to slow, loud to subdued, making Vintage Experience a bumpy ride.
In last year's always with Chubb, Wordsmith was able to complement the Select Records hit-maker with a youthful freshness and less dominating microphone presence. On his own, Wordsmith is still a work-in-progress. Perhaps true to its intention, Vintage Experience spends a lot of the album reminiscing about the past, with love, care and wonder. KRS-One, Grand Puba and 2Pac all did this throughout their Rap careers. However, Wordsmith has great things to say. He appears to have a wisdom and lived experience that's lost in simple chorus-driven tracks, or nostalgic odes. Morever, this album appears to be confused with a la cart beats from a handful of producers all fighting for distinction. The dedication is there, but the tutelage is still progressing.