Artist: WordsworthTitle: Mirror MusicRating: 4 StarsReviewed by: Kenny Rodriguez
Wordsworth has worn many hats in the last ten years. Sure, he’s co-starred on MTV’s short-lived Lyricist Lounge Show, written pilot sitcoms for HBO, and appeared in a cinematic film or two, but the Hip-Hop community knows Words best for his ability to drop witty punchlines and jaw-dropping freestyles on command. Having shared the mic with the likes of Mos Def, Talib Kweli, A Tribe Called Quest, Masta Ace, and a host of others, at one time Wordsworth was heralded as one of the underground’s best. However with no solo debut to boast of, the Brooklyn-bred MC never successfully elevated beyond the status of “dope guest MC.” In an industry infamous for short-selling artists before they hit their prime, Wordsworth has defied the odds and at long last composed his debut LP, Mirror Music (Halftooth Records). One listen and you’ll see why the album was worth the wait.
On the church organ clangs of the Ayatollah-produced “Right Now,” Words reminds us of why he caught listeners’ attention in the first place: “Put your arms up, got you raising your hands / Like you confused about the rules before you take an exam / Like your left one’s on a Bible before taking a stand / Words is the inspiration for the creation of man”. The braggadocio continues on the energetic “Not Fair” with long-time partner Punchline, and Words later holds his own on the eccentric “Point Blank.”
Carrying the nonchalant tone of a vet who’s above sparring with mere MC’s, it’s clear that Wordsworth’s got nothing to prove when it comes to battling. But Mirror Music isn’t all fun and games. Take the vibrant “Trust” for instance, where Words takes a moment to analyze his past relationship infidelities (“3 girls at once, sometimes 4 / Sometimes the same block, the same building, sometimes same floor”). Later on the addictive soul hums of “Be A Man,” he can be found scrutinizing society’s view of masculinity, kicking lines like “a father only shows a boy how to become a man? / Not true, single-parents show the mother can.” One of the LP’s best cuts is the piano-laced “12 Months,” where the MC outlines a year-long paper chase, all the while throwing subtle quips at the capitalist rat-race. Although Words’ well-grounded, almost conversational flow allows him to convey a message without being overly preachy, things do get monotonous and muffled at times, like the neo-soul sounding “Unity.” But that’s where the producers come in.
With raspy ‘70s soul and sample-chopping that bump like a blunted Madlib concoction – the musical backdrops on Mirror Music are nothing short of ill. Peep the crisp symphony strings on “Shoulder,” the dark slinking violas on “What We Gon’ Do,” or the sped-up falsetto hiccups of “Gonna Be.” Wordsworth has at his disposal a batch of head-nodding tracks that most MC’s would die for.
Having clearly matured from his Lyricist Lounge Show days, Mirror Music is proof that Words is much more than simply a freestyle MC with clever one-liners. Without totally immersing himself into the conscious genre, Words successfully jumps from dropping similes to dropping jewels in mid-sentence. It’s been a long time coming, but Mirror Music is one of the better albums, independent or mainstream, heard all year.