Spoken word is a lost art in hip hop culture. We hear bits and pieces of it on the occasional album; the “Intro” track on Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor or even Lauryn’s beautiful display on the “Mystery of Inequity.” Spoken word can be ten times more vivid, descriptive, enlightening, and disturbing than rapped lyrics are, but it does not have the rhythm, flow, and ability to move a crowd like rapping does. Hip hop is about poetry being recited whether in rhythmic manner or spoken. My colleague, Kevin, then sent me an album of a few dudes who walk this fine line and blend the best of both worlds on one album: Commoners & Kings.
Jragon Fly Jon, Jason O’Neil, Anthony Sims and Marcus Robinson make up the Long Beach quartet and they all contribute something to the album, Finally. The album seems to be 50/50 in terms of rapping and spoken word, but lyrically it is consistent and production from series of producers is for the most part on point.
“Brave New World” uses the very haunting Tears For Fears sample of “Mad World” in a very effective way and displays some of the most impressive spoken word on the album: “Regress back to a brave new world because you know what/ we don’t even eat food/ we gigabyte consume information until we can move.” This shit is not only spine-tingling; it made me feel guilty for spending the entire day on my laptop: “get high on electric circuits/ circus dance around waste time do nothing with your substance.” After listening to this song continuously, I finally decided to move on and will NEVER look at my notebooks/pencils/postal service the same way again.
To switch gears, “For the Love” is certainly a track for the traditional hip hop heads. DJ Zero One provides one hell of a banger with DJ Premier-esque strings and a very unique touch that allows Jragon Fly to run beautifully on this joint. “Listen to the Woman” is a solo acoustic joint by Jason O’Neil telling a great story of a man’s significant other. It is most certainly something you will not hear on the radio, it acts as a piece of theatre with a beginning, middle, and end. “Why Do I Do It” sounds like something out of the Justus League camp, however, the production seems to dominate the MC’s on this which is unfortunate. It leads into the “Interlude (King In Me)” which once again displays great production from DJ Zero One and a tease of rapping from the guys.
The album is hit and miss, especially for those who are not specifically experienced with spoken word. “Good and Faithful Servant” angers me because Anthony Sims could easily rap on this, but instead takes the spoken word route. This leads to a joint that seems to have terrible timing and horrible flow. The very average beat then goes on for another two minutes for a purpose I could be too stupid to find. “Conversations” suffers from the same problem, instead, it’s a beautiful piano beat that aches to be rapped on. Lyrically it is fine, the story is fine, but the rhythm ruins what could be a great track.
The biggest problem on Finally is the lack of rhythm and flow. The biggest thing for an up and coming artist, group, or act is to find an identity. While there are some tremendous tracks in here that will certainly touch the listener, the overall intake of the album is difficult to endure. The replay value is extremely low, and while these guys are great poets, I’d love to see everyone bring that emotion, passion, intensity and focus on one route or at least have a better execution of what really is a complex plot. There is no chemistry with the production and spoken word pieces, so you have these beautifully crafted lyrics and stories just inserted on this backdrop beat that serves no purpose. Unfortunately, the three standout tracks are not enough positive to outweigh the negative, but with a few tweaks here and there C&K could be a needed element for hip hop.
Standout tracks: “Brave New World”, “For The Love”, “Why Do I Do It”
Brave New World
For The Love
Why Do I Do It
Overall rating: 65/100