Artist: Ise LyfeTitle: SpreadtheWordRating: 4 StarsReviewed by: Paine
If revolution had a movie, Ise Lyfe just might be theme music. This 23 year-old Oakland poet/MC attacks the status quo of the greater ghetto community on his debut, SpreadtheWord (Hard Knock Records). Divided between poetic verse and song, Ise researches the content for his rhymes, demonstrating tremendous effort. "My people went from fighting for freedom to acting dumb for free," Ise's opening line from "Murder", proves this point from a debut album devoted to raising awareness and standards for our young people.
Musically, Ise Lyfe is passionately improvisational. "Reason" is a charged manifesto that justifies the street lifestyle as a reaction to the lacking government voice. The energy climaxes with a groaning chorus that feels impromptu. "Feet Ankle Song" plays off Khias 2002 hit, with an opus devoted to physical and mental health. Ise Lyfe's third verse, whether intentionally or not, bares a simple rhyme style reminiscent of rap's earliest days. "Kids" overtly pays tribute to the early '90s Hip-Hop, in the vein of Ahmad's "Back in the Days", in one of Ise's more carefree moments on a thoughtful album. Andria Batise's jazzy vocals help ease the tension in one of the best musical moments.
While the songs may not have the smoothest deliveries, the poetry is unmistakably serious. Whether it's a mockery of the misinformation on the female image on "Beauty" or the community criticism of "Murder", Ise Lyfe's poems show relevant subject matter and strong metaphors. Equally, the poet tells a story on "Enigma" that also externalizes the symptoms of violence in present-day Ghetto, America.
Certain albums are made for headphones because the production lacks or the MC speaks very intimately to the listener. SpreadtheWord is an album that should be played from cars circling the battered blocks of the world. However, the lyricism in the poems is too precise to be played from anywhere but beside the listener's ears. The music is rough around the edges, but in a way that comes across only as honest-not amateurish. In its approach, the album channels bits of 2Pacalypse Now and Black on Both Sides. If the Hyphy movement is a party, SpreadtheWord is the resolution the morning after.