Rapsody - Laila's WisdomJamia/Roc NationHip-hopOn Rapsodys Kendrick Lamar-featuring Power, the 34-year-old rapper cycles through several of the themes shes made.
On Rapsodys Kendrick Lamar-featuring Power, the 34-year-old rapper cycles through several of the themes shes made her calling card: the travails of systemic injustice, radical self-love in a world that seems bent on your self-hate, and the forks in the road that decide whether you end up a statistic when you grow up in an inner-city neighbourhood.
Lailas Wisdom, Rapsodys first album released in partnership with Roc Nation, is entirely produced by her long-time collaborators, The Soul Collective. It uses funk, jazz and simple loops that blend elements of raps spiritual origins with more recent sounds in a way that allows Rapsodys throwback lyrics and casually complex bars to shine.
Ridin takes aim at the ways people sabotage themselves through club nights and alcohol. Chrome (Like Ooh) is an evocative reminiscence of her native Snow Hill, North Carolina, peppered with strong advice that has stuck with her through the years.
If theres a rap against Rapsody, its that her tendency for panoramic social critique leaves little room for levity. Lailas Wisdoms major bulwark against that, Sassy, is buoyed by vibrant production by Eric G and lets Rapsody play with different voices, onomatopoeia and tone in a style thats novel in her catalogue.
A three-stretch near the end also shows the versatility of her songwriting by tapping into a well of romantic emotion. A Rollercoaster Jam Called Love is about the importance of maintaining a sense of self outside of your partner while in a relationship U Used To Love Me chronicles the dissolution of a faded love Knock On My Door is a passionate account of longing that showcases a sensual side.
Rapsody is at her sharpest on closer Jesus Coming, which looks at the human cost of inner-city violence in a story told from three perspectives. Each character a teenager seduced by a life of party and crime, a married father and an innocent single mother caught in the crossfire suffers from a gunshot wound that will take ultimately take their life.
While so much of contemporary rap is aspirational lifestyle music, with rappers charting their ride to the top and celebrating the material spoils it provides, Rapsodys songs caution against the traps of life in an economically devastated community. She is hip-hops everywoman.
Top track: Jesus Coming