Wanna know why raprock usually sucks? It’s because it combines a mediocre rapper with a guitarist who can maybe hit one lick or invent a catchy riff. It’s formulaic about 95% of the time.
But what about rapsoul? Well, it’s generally a little better, but the formula is basically the same: Get a soul singer (Alicia Keys, Mary J., etc.) to sing a hook, and then throw some big name rapper who is either past his prime or who is willing to phone in a verse or two. Meh.
J. Pinder, a young rapper from Seattle, has broken the mold. On his “Code Red” EP, he couples a smooth, fresh delivery with soulful lyrics—songs about inspiration and perspiration—over rap beats. His delivery is silky smooth, but he doesn’t use it to seduce (like Cool J, e.g.). Yes, he’s charming, but he’s rapping about real hip hop topics: Trouble, God, violence, and living life to the fullest. Take this verse from “Go Far”: “depart from the bad things, bad jobs, bad neighborhoods that caused you to have bad dreams/nightmares, why bear?/why stay when the air is quite clear?” Or the hook on “Safe Place”: “I get this dough/And I put in a safe place/safe/but it ain’t safe no more/I need a safe for my safe/and a gun to protect my life.” It’s playful, intelligent, and streetwise. The EP has production by some underground greats (Jake One, Vitamin D) and features appearances by the likes of Guilty Simpson, Big Pooh, and Toki Wright. And you can’t go wrong at the price: Free.
Or taste it first!