itzme Review: Benjamin Starr – Free Lunch

In the wake of many racially charged occurrences in America, hip-hop (along with many other things) has been more vocal about overcoming racial barriers. The music has been used as a means to display pride and rich culture that’s impossible to hide. That being said, nothing is more topical than the album “Free Lunch”. Free Lunch expresses hunger, self-love, and a passion to fight injustice with the will of a warrior king. Benjamin Starr reveals his self, his passion, his mic skill, his pride, his culture, and his versatility in this project.
As indicated by the album, cover, Free Lunch is a montage of Afrocentrism. “Movies” is an elegantly-stated listing of people and incidents related to police brutality, civil rights, and black art. “Play me the truth, and let me groove with it”. Furthermore, Starr’s voice is just as potent and impacting as the activists that he borrows quotes from. He viciously rips oppressors with bars like “burn the confederate flags ‘til they feel me” and “I came explicitly to challenge history”. In the “Within, Him” spoken word interlude, his stanzas paint the picture of the history behind America’s brainwashed (or whitewashed) antiblackness; and mentions rich history and culture that instills pride in spite of that. Starr consistently and boldly delivers defiance towards prejudices and stereotypes throughout this album. This along with his everpresent reverence for his roots and culture gels the album together.
Free Lunch is as much about Starr himself as it is anything else, though. He expresses his faith on “Seventh” along with other songs throughout the album. In “Seventh” as well as “Tuxedos” he details his struggles to succeed and become greater. “Wonderful Love” is a celebration of a love through both hard and good times. Starr gives listeners himself going through many downs, but still withholds the personality of a man standing tall. Such gives him a charisma, and makes you feel close to him beyond being a “rap activist” in a manner of speaking.
Beyond being an activist and a person, Free Lunch shows Benjamin Starr to be an artist: a poet and technician, as well as one with a keen ear for instrumentals. In the aforementioned song, “Wonderful Love”, Starr’s bluntly stated chorus is “woman, you’re wonderful”. With the following sax notes jumping for joy, he plants the seed of profound admiration for this woman. “Grace” is reminiscent of a fashion of holy hip-hop tracks. The thumping bass, horns, and opera choir gives it the epic sound of going to war. That coupled with his aggressive delivery and cadence lights a fire in one’s soul. Of all the songs in the album, “Grace” displays his hunger the most (fitting, as the chorus uses eating a meal as a metaphor) his technical skills are off the charts in this joint (e.g. “Black angels in my chambers of commerce, concerts in my converse, rallying the converse(?), Yes God’s great…” Rapping in a 4-4, he spits two internals is the first quarter of a bar [angels, chambers], uses “commerce” as an end rhyme, then rhymes it twice more before the bar ends. Afterwards he continues the rhyme, and transitions mid-bar).
Starr’s lyrical prowess thrives in its variety as much as anything else. As stated before, he shows art in expression with his spoken word pieces, but he also displays a battle-rap reminiscent wit, impressive wordplay, and cinematic storytelling. The evidence is laid bare throughout the album, from the tales in “Mirrors” to the clothing-related wordplay in “Tuxedos”.
Starr’s quote on this album sums it up perfectly. It represents not only an evolved hip-hop artist, but an evolved black man. The versatility in sounds, subjects, and skill that this album shows along with the personality and passion make it a modern masterpiece. Free Lunch is an enjoyable and compelling album from front to back and it has a strong sense of purpose. Any fan of hip-hop should love this album.

Coldest Tracks: “Tuxedos”, “Grace”, “Seventh”, “Black Owned”, “Love, For You”

Eh Songs: “2 Faces”

Hip-Hop Is Full of Thugs

Ever since the murders of young men like Oscar Grant and Trayvon martin, a lot of awareness is being built up for America’s 400+ year relationship with “minorities”, particularly black people. Fast-forward to 2015, black pride is probably the strongest it has been in this whole generation. And hip-hop, one of the most dominant forces in our modern society has reflected this in a truly powerful way.

Rappers have stepped up to the political forefront as champions for the cause for equality. Killer Mike has appeared all over news channels, sharing his articulate insight on the current sociopolitical climate

As he has, very fervently, in his music

As he has, very fervently, in his music

Him doing so has created a powerful visibility for a number of things, namely the Run the Jewels brand and the movement. Needless to say, hip-hop is proud.

Another example of engaged rappers is Talib Kweli. The legend has been sharing wisdom all over his social networks, as well as appearing on CNN. Just follow him on social media to see this.

In fact, social media has been a pivotal point in this new movement, as we see many celebrities and artists share their thoughts and feelings in a way that has never been shown and shared before. Twitter posts by artists surrounding incidents around police brutality or screwy media quickly hit headlines. Anything you see on the internet quickly spurs huge conversations, for example, Azealia Banks’ fiascos.

Most profoundly of all, this has leaked into the music of many artists, underground and mainstream. The commentary presented in Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” video is powerful and potent.

Many have taken his last album to be a “pro-black” composition, although it’s moreso a story of Kendrick Lamar’s revelation after conquering his bouts of depression and simply brushing and bumping past the concept of “pro-black”. And his messages has transcended circles of hip-hop into mainstream media, albeit misconstrued. Big name artists team up to make posse tracks. Up and comers deliver powerful passion of these incidents hungrily. Benjamin Starr, for one, deserves a huge mention that’s packed with black pride and empowerment from front to back.

It’s refreshing to see that as much to see that things have evolved and changed, a lot has stayed the same. Hip-hop is still the voice for those who wouldn’t have had one otherwise.

Watch the lyric video for “Thuggin'” by Glasses Malone


Trent Taylor + The Weed Tape Rejects

Last year, The Weed Tape was dropped and Trent Taylor hasn’t stopped since. He’s teamed up with Elijah Kilo for a 6-track EP, and is going strong with his Weed Tape series. The third installment, Rejects, goes against what one would think by its title.

The tape has a groovy and lax vibe laid over like a filter, but digging deeper into the tracks you get a bunch of different styles. Time Blunt of Hour features head-bobbing rhythmic stuttering in the sample. The watery rifts of The Hu$tle puts folks in a drifting daze. Characteristic sampling and other soundbits are entertaining. The variance between the instrumental styles is magnetic.

Throughout the album there are parts to chill to, and parts to jam to. And the timing between tracks along with the transitions and interludes are sweet; exquisite even, flowing like silk. I’ve been enjoying this for a few weeks, so I had to pass it on. Here’s a 19-track gift for ya’ll, use it as the soundtrack to your day.


Analysis | Soule – Dark Memories

“Dark Memories” by Soule is one example of an excellent hip-hop song that embodies a mood, tells a story, has clever and/or deep lines, and flows smoothly with back-to-back transitions. On top of that, it’s produced by the amazing Suede Moccasins who hooks it up once again. It possesses many of the things I love about hip-hop music, and one of the few songs I got excited about last year.

“Pray your clock shows hands in just one direction, cuz it’s hard for you to follow”

This bar directly references back to the hook where the character in the story (addressed in second person) has a lost concept of time, immortally unchanged like a ghost.

What’s also interesting about this bar is that it transitions perfectly into the verse in multiple ways.

It brings to attention the stagnant and lost mindset that the character has, which is the setting for this verse in the song. The actual mind of the character is drawn out like a tangible place. A place that is very rejecting, and deleterious of past memories. A very blank, lonely, and mundane state of mind that prefers being void from human interaction. This is described in the next line (among others):

“That’s what it’s like being a NEET,

then you get all neat”

A NEET(Not in Education, Employment, or Training) being a layabout who stays at home and doesn’t do much of anything, and rhyming with the homophone “neat” showing that they live unfulfilled and must occupy with idle cleaning. This also begins a very aggressive rhyme pattern:

“cleaning the house, the defeat,

makes you plow.

Don’t have the passion right now to”

The contrast of this bar from the non-rhyming of opening bar breaks listeners into the second verse and sets the pace for it. This bar is so aggressive for several reasons. First, that the rhyme scheme and cadence are very intricate, following an AA-BA-B-B pattern where house is used as an internal rhyme that is later pushed out as an end rhyme which sets the simpler pattern for the rest of the verse after a transition using another faster paced rhyme:

“talk with you, walk with you”

That point brings me to this: the sudden aggressiveness is the frustration of the narrator of dealing with this character. The first two lines are a very vague and somewhat glazed-over description that the narrator uses to describe the character’s mindset, but when digging deeper it becomes a source of frustration. Then the simplifying of the cadence/rhyme scheme is the calming down and acceptance of this setting. “Don’t have the passion right now” is a verbal sigh of exasperation and ceasing to struggle to hold onto the relationship. “talk with you, walk with you, do the same things like Geminis, how the stars move” is a very repetitive (yet not redundant) overstatement used as a device to show how close knit this relationship was. They talked together, they walked together, they were like twins. They revolved in the same pattern like the stars seem to do in the night sky.

Cleverly, this ties into an onslaught of astrology themed metaphors and references:

“I was a Leo in the sky, now I’m sagging like a Sag

reminiscing real hard on the year we have shared

that goes out to every astrological being that is there”

Pretty apparent, but this is saying this took a bit out pep out the speaker’s step. The wording, repetition and delivery makes the feeling come out of the words. “Leo in the sky” gives the image of a proud king of the jungle standing high over creation with utmost pride; whereas “sagging like a Sag” defines a lowly, rock-kicking persona (even further defined by the pet name for Sagittarius, which pronounces the ‘g’ differently). And “shared” was also spoken in a lower somber tone. yadayada

“you caught the arrow that cupid was trying to aim at your head

not your heart, that’s why you think too much instead.

‘Stead of staying in touch, you try to grow apart”

Adding to the setting of the character’s mindset, the speaker uses cupid’s aim as a metaphor for their approach to the situation. Their approach is loveless and riddled in overthink, making staying in touch needlessly difficult and frustrating.

“What does that say about us?

For real, you keep that state of mind I can’t trust

instead of making memories, you want memorials

everything I paved, you want to bury those”

That says the character wants nothing to do with this situation. As stated before, this person is “rejecting and deleterious”. The expression is that there is no good to be had from this situation, they are denying any chance of a positive relationship or hindsight. “Memories” could be a good remembrance of the experience, but instead the person desires “memorials”, as in dead. Buried. Everything built in the relationship, buried. This mindset drenched in overthink that destroys any “light” or positivity is like a betrayal to the speaker. Considering that once they were peas-in-the-pod or “like Geminis”, the fact that things are the polar opposite just makes the person impossible to trust (considering the diction “can’t”).

I feel like these lines are the key relation of the song to the title.

Be on the lookout for Soule’s Connection project.