Album:- Living By Ex-Samples
Record Label:- Independent
Distributed By:- Audiomack
Guest Appearances:- Vernon & I-Spillz
Producers:- Interpolated Beats
Release Date:- January 12th 2016
Apart from Modenine, no other prominent Nigerian rapper uses the New York City originated boom bap sound to create music anymore. In the heyday of Nigerian hip-hop music, early pioneers like the aforementioned Mode, Six Foot Plus, Ruff Rugged And Raw, Def O Clan, Tuck Tyte , Khalifate, Peaceville Militia and even Da Trybe all utilized the sound one way or another which set the tone for the collective Hip-hop sound, but the next generation of mainstream rapper switched up the sound, infused other pop, trap, traditional and Afrocentric elements into the sound, sphere eventually relegating boom-bap to the bottom of the totem pole and making it totally unattractive to include that brand of hip-hop music in a mainstream rap album. Today if you want to listen Nigerian boom bap hip-hop that was not created by Modenine, you can only find it on the underground with acts like Str8buttah, MC Skill Tha Preacha, MHP, Psalmurai, Paybac, Boogey and a handful of traditional cats still sticking to the script and delivering the sort of sound that was crafted by great East Coast producers like DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Q-Tip, RZA, Diamond D, Large Professor and Easy Mo Bee.
Enter Gem.in.I , a rapper who is cut from the traditional cloth and falls under the aforementioned category of hip-hop purists who are determined to keep representing that raw sound and though he has been away from the scene for a while, he returned this year with a 9-track compilation titled Living On Ex-Samples which was inspired by a need to relive the glory of his early hip-hop influences and rap over some throwback classic beats. He makes his intention known on the Intro, which where he gives a brief explanation of the idea that inspired his decision to craft the mixtape, Next he raps over the instrumental of the monumental 2007 Grammy nominated collaboration “Classic (Better Than I’ve Ever Been)” which original lineup included Kanye West, Rakim, Nas And KRS One. He started his freestle with a shoutout to DJ Premier who produced the song, but the freestyle failed to live up to the original title, as his flow was a bit off-key, and the freestyle sounded a bit dated. His performance on the song does not offer a good incentive for a first time listener, but he redeems himself on the love-driven A Song For Amanda, on which he bared his deepest feelings to the woman after his heart with precise and poetic lines thus he created a song that is bound to send a flurry of butterfly sensations running through his muse Amanda.
He goes conscious and reflective on the next song Lost Ones, which was performed over the instrumental of the same name from Jay-Z’s Kingdom Come album, on it he raps about the recent spate of religious extremism that has wrought Nigeria in recent times, primarily the Boko Haram murders, kidnappings and bomb blasts then proceeds to rap over the instrumental of A Long Walk , which was performed originally by American soul diva Jill Scott. His version, called Txkxng Thx Lxng Wxlk featured underground rapper Vernon who spit a quotable verse, the highlight one-liner for me in the verse being “Don’t hate the dark, that’s the canvas on which the stars glow“, his lone verse clearly outshone two of Gem.In.I’s. The bragadocious Audacity Of Hope, samples a brief speech about “keeping it real in hip-hop” by the American president Barack Obama on its intro, and went on to the Pete Rock produced Boss instrumental over which GEM rapped “second verse is probably more worse than the first /if you observe I never curse on a verse” , echoing the original “boss” sample on the hook,on this song he addresses ageism in hip-hop, and reinforced his resolve to create the sort of hip-hop music he was inspired by. Greatness Every Moment is another DJ Premier produced boom bap dish, which followed the pattern of the song before it, and basically a session of lyrical showboating. The Ride Along Medley is a 4 minute blend of beats which should have been left out altogether, and the EP comes to a close on he motivational Sunshine After The Rain which features I-Spillz and was performed over the widely interpolated instrumental of Ready Or Not by The Fugees, and once again Gem.in.I was out shone by a single verse by the guest MC, and while declaring in the verse before that he never uses expletives, he ended his second verse with a blurred out curse word.
The truth about hip-hop in 2016 is that the boom bap sound is fast becoming a relic even in New York City it’s birthplace. The most prominent boom-bap producer and honorary custodian DJ Premier still utilizes the sound, most recently on Prhyme his collaborative effort with Royce Da 5’9,but it is worthy of note that his most recent musical dispensation has evolved past what is was in 1999-2009 and While older rap heads still swear by and champion the sound, the truth is that boom bap has always and still remains a sub-sound of the general and is currently one of the least desired mainstream hip-hop sounds ( but that’s another essay ). Now back to Gem.In.I and Living By Ex-Samples, a project which I feel will be appreciated by a section of older rap heads, but is most likely not going to fit into the current sound-scape of todays rap culture, furthermore, GEM using outdated New York lingo like “Whats up Black“, “Nigga“, and “Peace God” , as well as his cadence and rhyme schemes put this project in a time machine and transported it 10-15 years into the past. He achieved his intention of paying homage to the sound, and delivered a good political commentary on Lost Ones, but his performances on a greater number of songs on the project left more to be desired. Living On Ex-Samples is stuck in a moment in time and may not be a thorough reflection of Gem.In.I’s entire current musical scope.Had it been released 10 years ago it would have sounded better,felt fresher and been more well received but Hip-hop has always been about getting fresh, evolving and moving forward, perhaps Gem.In.I should leave the classics where they belong and create new material that will in turn win him more fans and appeals to more of today consumers.
Best Verse:- Vernon On Txkxng Thx Lxng Wxlk
Standout Track:- A Song For Amanda
Overall Rating:- 5/10