Music, Magic, Myth

Artist: The Last EmperorTitle: Music, Magic, MythRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: aqua boogie

The Last Emperor’s career has been more stop and go (more on the stop side) than rush hour traffic. Never discouraged, his debut album Music, Magic, Myth is finally out on indie label Raptivism. Hailed as a champion lyricist since his origins in the Lyricist Lounge, open mic scene of the early nineties, the West Philadelphia native with the intellectual but street sweeping flow makes it clear that although he has been in label limbo for the better part of a decade, he’s still worthy of his name and will finally be heard.

“Music, Magic, Myth” stumbles out of the starting gate: the usually dependable Madsol’s beat contributions (“Who’s That”, “Some Love, Some Hate”) that open the album (besides a funny medieval inspired intro courtesy of Prince Paul) start things off with dawdling and flat production that doesn’t stand out. The same can be said of Ayatollah’s “Tiger Trail” which wastes Emp’s adept lyrics with a key laden but dull track. Both beatmakers redeem themselves but not until the album’s 5th track. Madsol provides a serene vocal loop and sublime keys for Last Emp’s introspective verses regarding the streets. Immediately following is the bobbing, Ayatollah produced strings of “Repetition” that finds Emp weaving vivid tales about aspirations of leaving the ‘hood, poor relationship decisions and everlasting love.

It’s Emp’s storytelling abilities that set him apart as a superior emcee. On “Animalistics” he lyrically assumes the forms of different beasts of the animal kingdom: “As you violate all my jungles laws, I become a Black Panther with paws and razor sharp claws/my cat form gives me the ability, to pounce with the grace and agility of a Tiger they fire shots it’s killin’ me/ Three emcees run in different directions and sections, I transform into a Cheetah I bet I can catch them in seconds.”

Emp's intellect is apparent in his lyrics but is not too complex for someone who is not blessed with the same breadth of knowledge. And in case you think he’s only an egghead with a mic, the vicious battle rap/freestyle flows of “Meditation” and “The Block Party” featuring Coco Brovas (a re-worked homage-not a bite-to Stetasonic’s “Go Stetsa”) will dismiss any doubts.

Music, Magic, Myth falters because despite containing plenty of gems, it is also stocked with a numbers of songs that are just, “okay”. Cuts like “The Incredible Man” or “The Underground” would have been better off as B-sides and left off the album. You also can’t help but wonder what if things ran smoothly and Emp would have dropped product in the late 90’s like he was supposed to? But what matters is now and Music, Magic, Myth is a well-rounded album from a seasoned but under-appreciated wordsmith of superior skill. That’s not myth, but fact.