By Niki D’Andrea
It’s been about three months since I started this “You Asked for It” blog, soliciting CDs from Phoenix bands that were complaining about not receiving any coverage from us. I’ve received dozens of CDs since then (many from bands that, it should be noted, never complained to us about not getting coverage before), and hope that we continue to receive the latest efforts from local musicians.
If you’re a musician from the Phoenix metro area and would like to send your CDs for review in this blog, please send it to:
Niki D’Andrea ATTN: YAFI Phoenix New Times 1201 E. Jefferson Street Phoenix, AZ 85032
This week’s review is the “long lost, almost forgotten debut EP” from Valley rapper Rashenal.
Rashenal The Day Birth EP (Earsweat Records) Rashenal’s been doing hip-hop in Phoenix for several years now as part of the Wildlife Refuge Crew, which also includes local mic fiends Jelts and Idolize. This 6-track EP is a collection of Rashenal’s favorite old, previously unreleased tracks. Most of the songs contain digital snare beats and acoustic guitars somewhere in the mix, including the opening track, “Mysterious Ways,” where Rashenal spits so quickly that the vocal rhythm is almost dizzying. The raps sound cool and complicated when Rashenal gets into a groove, but listen closely, and it becomes painfully obvious that most of these 16 bars rely on monyllabic, simple end-rhyme schemes. For example, here’s half a verse from the song “Unravel”: “At about mid-day, sit and listen to the music play/Sing aloud a certain sound and hear it as it comes around/I’m looking deep into the pound, seeing more to still be found/Starting to peer deeper into things of every day/Seeing that there’s more, looking in a different way.” Aside from the phonetic “ee” sound in “peer deeper,” there’s not a single rhyme in those lines that isn’t obvious and frankly, lame. Now, some people might step in here and say, “Bitch, you don’t rap! How can you attack somebody’s rhymes like that?” I’m not saying I could grab a mic and do better (because I probably couldn’t) -- I’m just saying that if you wanna be in the game, you gotta have game. When Eminem is out there doing shit like rhyming the words sensation, rotation, stations, patience, and caucasians all within four lines (using internal, slant, and end-rhyme) like he does in “The Way I Am,” you can’t make rhymes like “I’ve seen my share, and watched emotion tear” (from Rashenal’s “Wandering Eyes”) and not expect to get some crap from somebody somewhere (although that track does have some nice bongo playing). But Rashenal makes up for his apprentice wordsmithing with some great phrasing and inflections, much like Del tha Funkee Homosapien. As for the music, it sticks to sharp snare beats and light instrumentation -- except for “Maroon Skies,” which opens with a ‘60s soul sound and then busts into a funky rap with an old school, breakdancing vibe. “Day Birth” opens with some nice, winsome acoustic guitar; it’s one of those inspirational, biographical tracks where he sings on the choruses, and raps in the verses about the things he’s gone through and talks about our unified uniqueness and struggles, and how we’re all gonna make it. The final track, “The Bloodline,” has another “we struggle, but we are one” message, born on jazzy guitar samples and some nice female guest vocals, which are un-credited in the ultra-terse liner notes. Overall, there’s nothing groundbreaking here, but the six songs on this EP are all easy-to-swallow jams, regardless of how elementary one might find the rhyme schemes.
Next week’s review: Yabba Funk.