Album: Land of the Way it Is
Record Label: Uncommon Records
Realistic, personal and energetic, "Land of the Way it Is" is a rip- roaring journey through lyrical righteousness
Uncommon Nasa is an example of a man who understands both the music industry and the outside World in equal, level- headed measure. As head honcho of New York's Uncommon Records, he's created an environment where music is made out of sheer joy and genuine passion rather than any real desire to make money. Label mates like Atari Blitzkrieg and Masei Bay provide plenty of talent, but the overall incentive of the "Prog rap" collective is one of family.
"Land of the Way it Is" is an example of a record that is evidently politically, socially and personally righteous, but Uncommon Nasa has no desire to shove his ideals down your throat. This is a record that sees him primarily clarifying his own mind, and if others can get in touch with the verdicts exposed then that's a bonus.
"The War on Bicycles" entails plenty of Nasa's esoteric lyrical ability as he divulges via metaphysical prose into the animosity that exists between humans and how belligerent it is. "Pasta W/ Butter" sees him indulge in a brand of deeply personal story telling about a childhood spent growing up in poverty. "Most cats have never known times like these, counting degrees on the thermostat" he raps over a chopped and screwed Boom- Bap beat. "Background Check" sees him marrying the story of a troubled childhood in an environment which he didn't fit with an attack on worldly ignorance. "What else do you expect when slavery is sugar- coated in school text books, and teaching Black history is considered nuts?" he says, before affirming "I am not the whites you see on TV, you are not the Blacks we see on TV."
"Frequent Flyers" finds him tired and fed up with the role of a touring, entirely self- sufficient lifestyle as he raps "Lights flashing flight delayed, but I feel like it's my life that's been delayed." "My Ego's Big" is one of the most potently lyrical moments here, Nasa providing a deep substance in his wordy analysis of the cynicism of the music industry.
But there's also Brother Ali- esque optimism on offer here, like on "Roses and Stones", which is largely about living life to the full and taking it for what it is. "The Future" follows the same kind of trajectory with much more of a poetic nature and provides an excellent close to the record.
"Land of the Way it Is" isn't about publicity. In his song of last year "Letter to my Countrymen" Brother Ali rapped "I'll be happy if this only reaches one of them" after an onslaught of critique of American culture and the government. In a way, that's what this record is. Unfortunately it's likely to be slept on by the majority, but for those who discover it it's almost endlessly brilliant.
Key tracks: Background Check, Pasta W/ Butter, The Future
For fans of: Billy Woods, Brother Ali