Hezekiah: I Predict A Riot

When it comes to sending a message that begs the attention of the soulful music-minded, rarely does the City of Brotherly Love disappoint. The likes of Jill Scott and The Roots are true testaments. So naturally, Hezekiah and his forecast: I Predict a Riot (Soulspazm/Rawkus) fit like a glove with the Philadelphia shtick. The title alone conjures up images of a revolutionary movement. With music as his imaginary picket sign, Hezekiah seems to yearn for change not only on the radio but in reality. Two years after his Hurry Up and Wait debut, the Illadelph representer has returned with double the emotion.The album unfolds with a smooth saxophone and thumping drum rhythm on “Wild & Wreckless,” where Hezekiah reestablishes his point of view. “They say if you ain’t got a prison record you can’t sell a record…Go ahead show your teeth ni**a show them your necklace/Lord knows what they’ll do to get on the guest list.” The sound of I Predict a Riot weaves in-between jazz, soul, Hip-Hop and funk. But somehow, it all blends together appropriately sealed with the inner city blues that dominates his verses. Hezekiah spans from lyrically muted to verbally raucous on tracks like “That Filling” featuring Freeway. Free delivers an aggressive set of bars that tears into the naysayers. Hezekiah adds his equally charged two cents he credits as “So hostile and so Gospel,” over a wailing sample. The soft-spoken rapper also spits at level 10 on the conga filled “If One Falls.”Bilal layers his howling vocals on “Looking Up” with a twinkling beat as the backdrop for Hezekiah’s vulnerable testimony. Aside from Jaguar Wright, the R&B side of the album features hooks from low-key singers like Muhsinah and Aaron Livingston. The prominent bass and gentle vocals on the love-struck “Let’s Get Involved” yield a mellow break up-to-make up anthem. “I’m at Tiffany’s taking the ring back/Come on love, you know I ain’t mean that,” he says in a nostalgic tone.Hezekiah’s rapping skills are pretty strong, but his most compelling dynamic is his production style. The largely self-produced I Predict a Riot is highlighted by heavy drums paired with colorful horns, strings, and well-tailored background vocals. A chameleon of sorts, Hezekiah sprinkles aspects of J. Dilla, Hi-Tek and an earlier Kanye into his beats. Live instrumentation upgrades every track including the standout “Bombs Over Here,” a musical melee that makes for a jazzy surprise.The force of the lyrical riot tapers a bit toward the end of the album but luckily there are few to skip over. We could do without the predictable “Single Now” and the interludes but even those were tolerable. There is enough variety to satisfy and hold the attention of even the most fickle listeners. The album’s progressively conscious themes probably won’t lead to a demonstration but hopefully people will rally around Hezekiah’s most obvious cause, good music.SOUNDCHECK: