ALBUM REVIEW: Rapsody – ‘Laila’s Wisdom’

After a five-year album-hiatus, Rapsody released her second studio album, ‘Laila’s Wisdom’, on September 22 as her most anticipated project yet.

Born and raised in Snow Hill, N.C., Rapsody has been in the industry for awhile, emerging in 2011 and 2012 by appearing on a couple tracks with the likes of Talib Kweli, Erykah Badu and Big K.R.I.T along with her debut album released in 2012, The Idea of Beautiful. 

Since, the rapper has dropped a collection of projects, however she avoided a second studio album until this year. Rapsody’s name may look familiar to even casual hip-hop fans from her guest appearance on Kendrick’s award-winning album To Pimp a Butterfly in the track, ‘Complexion (A Zulu Love)’ in 2015. She then featured with another popular west-coast rapper, Anderson .Paak, in ‘Without You’, from his highly-praised album Malibu. Last year, she appeared on ‘The Law’, by Ab-Soul along with Mac Miller.

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Rapsody keeps gaining attention and respect in the hip-hop world as each year passes by.

Although Rapsody has dropped a large amount of material, she has still been fairly unknown to many outside of the rap community. Well-respected by many, including Kendrick and Anderson, she clearly has developed her own sound that is attractive to prominent names in the game.

This 64-minute, 14-track album has a pretty impressive list of features, but also several guest performances from unknown artists. Here’s how Rapsody herself explained the meaning behind the album, dedicated to her grandmother.

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Here’s the track listing, with our reviews below.

Track Listing

  1. Laila’s Wisdom
  2. Power (ft. Kendrick Lamar, Lance Skiiwalker)
  3. Chrome (Like Ooh)
  4. Pay Up
  5. Ridin (ft. GQ)
  6. Sassy
  7. Nobody (ft. Anderson .Paak, Black Thought, Moonchild)
  8. Black & Ugly (ft. BJ The Chicago Kid)
  9. You Should Know (ft. Busta Rhymes)
  10. A Rollercoaster Jam Called Love (ft. Musiq Soulchild, Gwen Bunn)
  11. U Used 2 Love Me (ft. Terrence Martin)
  12. Knock On My Door (ft. BJ The Chicago Kid)
  13. OooWee (ft. Anderson .Paak)
  14. Jesus Coming (ft. Amber Navran)

Reviews

-mikey-

7/10

Fav Tracks: OooWee, Knock on My Door, Pay Up, Black & Ugly, Chrome (Like Ooh), Laila’s Wisdom

I came into this not hearing any of Rapsody’s solo work, but I feel like now I have a pretty good vision of what she brings to the table.

Rapsody did a really nice job opening the album up in an entertaining and successful manner, which is always important for an artist a bit off the radar.

The opener, ‘Laila’s Wisdom’, is reminiscent of an early 2000’s, old-school, NBA Live soundtrack-type jam. The piano gives it a east-coast type vibe, which actually doesn’t completely pertain throughout the rest of the album.

Rapsody then comes through with a heavy track in ‘Power’, with features from Kendrick and Lance Skiiwalker. The sound of this one really reminds me of something off Jay Rock’s 2015 album, 90059. Wasn’t necessarily a fan of Lance’s chorus here but the change of pace mid-way through and Kendrick’s verse kept me on my heels – this definitely isn’t a boring track. Shoutout to Rapsody for her Jerry Stackhouse line in this one as well.

The old-school, east-coast sound continued on track three, ‘Chrome (Like Ooh)’ – and as Austin pointed out – Rapsody sounds so much like Missy Elliott. The beat switch was mastered well, and the production in the second half reminded me of fellow N.C. rapper J. Cole’s style in his two most recent albums.

‘Pay-Up’ is a wonderfully-mastered hit that sends off Anderson .Paak vibes – I actually think a verse from him would’ve sounded great here. The guitar also added a really nice element and the production was really impressive.

Wasn’t the biggest fan of ‘Ridin’. This isn’t a bad song, but versatility-wise it was a step back from the first four and was unnecessarily long (4 minutes and 51 seconds). Interestingly, Rapsody then delivered arguably the most oddball track on the record to follow this up in ‘Sassy’. While the beat was repetitive and simple, Rapsody flowed with it really well and made it an enjoyable listen. I do think think was 20 or 30 seconds too long, though.

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LA rapper and soul-singer Anderson .Paak came through with a couple great hooks on this record

Rapsody comes through lyrically in ‘Nobody’, no questions asked. ‘Nobody know the cost of a dollar worth less to ’em Kendrick,’ is a dope line. Anderson .Paak fit well in the chorus here, and I liked Black Thought’s delivery in his feature a lot. Following a break in sound, the final couple of minutes on this was unnecessary for me, as the track finished at 7:27 in length, but as a whole this was a cool track.

BJ The Chicago Kid absolutely killed it with the chorus on ‘Black and Ugly’. He has a very distinctive voice that fit perfectly on the chorus, and Rapsody did well to keep up with a pretty quirky and odd beat. I love how the song opens with the chorus, too. I kind of wish we heard a little more BJ, though, as even his hard-to-hear outro sounded slick as hell.

One of the most outlandish songs came in ‘You Should Know’. The production here was really creative and kept the listener guessing, but it was another long one at 6 minutes and 17 seconds, thanks in part to a completely random Busta Rhymes feature to cap it off. This shit comes out of nowhere. No offense to Busta, who as always brought his eccentric style to the track, but his voice and style just didn’t mesh well with the song and album as a whole for me.

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BJ The Chicago Kid did his thing on this record, with two baller background vocal performances

Tracks 10 and 11, ‘A Rollercoaster Jam Called Love’, and ‘U Used 2 Love Me’ weren’t my favorites, but they were intriguing. It’s difficult to categorize the two into a certain genre as they had unique elements, especially U Used 2 Love Me, which had a super-old, house-music feel to it with kick drums, electronic background vocals and a trumpet thing going on.

The dopest moment – production-wise – of the project came on the dope transition from U Used 2 Love Me to ‘Knock On My Door’, with the creak of a door-opening to kick off the piece. It had some more amazing vocals from BJ The Chicago Kid, and I really fucked with Rapsody’s laid-back, seemingly effortless flow on the back-end of the track. Her delivery flowed perfectly with the beat. Follow that up was ‘OooWee’, featuring Anderson Paak, and it’s can’t-miss banger. Anderson really is a master at catchy, wavy choruses. Rapsody showed her versatility the most on this track more than any other, with a confident, passionate delivery that wasn’t seen too much previously on the album.

The finale of the record, ‘Jesus Coming’, was systematically and symbolically a decent way to end the album. I enjoyed Amber Navran’s vocal performance here as a feature, but the ‘Time to GOOOO’ background voice on repeat throughout basically the whole six-plus minute track was hella annoying.

This was a really enjoyable listen or me, and I can confidently say I’ll come back to 7-8 of the 14 tracks on here in the foreseeable future. Even the tracks that I didn’t like were still listenable, and I’d highly recommend this record to give this a listen front-to-back. Shoutout to Rapsody also for making a solid album, length-wise – this album didn’t drag on – but it was long enough to really get a full taste of her style and goals with this record.

-av-

8/10

Fav Tracks: Nobody, Power, Chrome (Like Ooh)

This album from beginning to end is TOUGH.  I listened to this album without having any knowledge of Rapsody or her work.  I was really impressed with the production and vibe on this album.  9th Wonder didn’t mess around with these beats.  If I didn’t know any better, I’d say these beats were meant for To Pimp a Butterfly ( I swear the sample from the beginning of ‘U Used 2 Love Me’ is from TPAB).  Rapsody sounds like Missy Elliott’s in the best way.  If someone took the AUX cord and played Rapsody for a room of hip-hop heads, I guarantee the majority of them will think it’s a young Missy.

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Rapsody, or Missy? Both have proven to be great, respected female rappers.

‘Power’ sounds like a radio banger that reminds me of Dre and Kendrick’s ‘Genocide’ on Compton.  Kendrick leaves his stamp on this song essentially making it his song and not Rapsody’s, but who’s complaining?  Probably the second-best all time song titled ‘Power.’

The track ‘Chrome (Like Ooh)’ is a prime example why Rapsody belongs on the label TDE.  The dark, twangy instrumental of with gang threats turns into electric keys in a gross beat switch-up.

‘Nobody’ is the best song on the album.  Rapsody’s lyrics on social media, music, and racism flow smooth as shit on this joint!  Anderson .Paak does his thing on the chorus.    Sometimes I wish he’d stick to choruses… but I’m a fan of his.  Black Thought’s is forgettable in the shadows of Rapsody and .Paak.

Its meant to be that Rapsody signs with TDE.  She might not fit the gangster bill, but she has the style, voice, and delivery to run with the “Top Dawgs.”  If you’re like me and listened ‘Ooouuu’ twice as much after you found out Young MA was a girl, then you’ve been waiting for a nice, new female rapper to come along.  I’m interested to see where her career goes from here.  I’ve got my eyes on you, Rapsody.

(That also goes for 9th Wonder.  I got my eyes on you too.)

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