The Poet

Artist: ShihanTitle: The PoetRating: 3 StarsReviewed by: Paine

Rapping as we know it, owes a lot of gratitude to The Last Poets and Gil Scott-Heron’s work in the early 1970’s. Most street-poets today fancy themselves as rappers. However, Shihan, a former rap signee to MCA Records, now brings his talents to the medium of spoken-word poetry. The Poet (Groove Gravy) combines eclectic musical textures underneath soft-spoken poetry dealing with issues of love, religion, and sociology. The Def Poetry alum’s debut may not appeal to all, but it’s unpretentious, clever, and honest.

“Poemcee” reminds the listener quickly of Shihan’s past. His use of homonyms “poemcee/po’ MC” along with the fast, deft, and syllabic delivery show a very talented rapper underneath the poet. For some, this may make the journey through The Poet tougher, and more accessible. “Stop the Music” attacks the modern trends of beats making sales, not rhymes. Though it moves very fast, this song has some wonderful Jazz vocals with piano after the verse. Of the musical portion of the album, other moments blend in before standing out. “What You Want” for instance, cowers in cleverness to some of Shihan’s brighter points.

Of the spoken word moments, Shihan shows many sides. “Auction Network” satirizes the modern perception of the Black man through a mock infomercial auction. “Robots” however, has a looser, more story-driven structure. This story alludes to a overlord in modern America. Though it’s very original, it’s easy to get lost. Nevertheless, the balance between music and poetry and the muddy lines of distinction brings The Poet to life. From moment to moment, there aren’t rules to follow.

Shihan isn’t nearly as intense as Saul Williams in his delivery. Arguably however, his subjects are much more clearly defined, and not as dominating. Likewise, the majority of his songs defy what we’ve heard from Sarah Jones. Shihan’s The Poet creates its own niche in the Poetry/Hip-Hop genre, and most probably reaches out to purists in both.