Review Summary: "Put clothes on his kid's back while mine pinch for pennies? No, sir. I would rather starve than give him the shirt off my back like I'm Tarzan."
Real rap comes from the heart, and it's getting tougher to come across nowadays considering a whole lot of talented artists would rather blandly rave about clubs, drugs and sex over things that actually matter, such as survival and making sacrifices for those that matter the most to you. While straight-laced, boy-scout types would likely disagree with most of what's said throughout this album (most of which involves smoking weed, as most rap albums generally partake in), there's no denying that even the most straightest-of-laces-type could find some soul and inspiration driven throughout this record. It's refreshing to hear an album that doesn't pander about being rich or famous for a change; those songs can be fun, sure, but they tend to over pile one-another to the point where even great up-and-comers get overshadowed by those who are already rich and famous. Instead of having yet another rapper brag about his Benz, here, with this album, we have a group of talented individuals who are trying their best but struggling in the midst of it all (just like the majority of us). Ugly Heroes
reintroduces a level of rapping that isn't necessarily common by today's standards: it's simple and brutally honest.
Through that simpleness and honesty comes a set of songs that are brilliantly strung together due to the consistently smooth deliveries of rappers Red Pill and Verbal Kent, backed by a classy production from Apollo Brown. After the album's intro, we're introduced to "Desperate"
which deals with being "flat broke"
and left to ponder what to do to get out of this sort of rut, the answer is (of course) not found in this song, but the intro to the next track lays it clear when it opens up with "Don't let a good thing die"
, which helps symbolize that there's no easy way out for any of us. Positive messages are layered throughout the bitter, lyrically-composed truths about the hard-hitting life that these (and other) gentlemen go through, this helps set the album in a perfect grey-area, allowing any person to be able to relate to the lyrics. "Graves"
, for instance, is the perfect anthem for the blue-collar worker in everyone, layered with a cool beat, and backed by the album's best hook, "Look 'em in the face, middle finger up. They trying to put us in our graves"
Lots of samples are creatively used throughout, but the songs that these samples stem from are nearly impossible to track down; for instance, the track "Heart & Soul"
features a sample from Act I's "You Didn't Love Me Anyhow"
. The use of obscure samples make the songs feel as if they were made many years ago, as opposed to 2013, and it's a very effective production that makes this album seem like a breeze to listen to from beginning-to-end, staying classy 100% of the time without feeling contrived or meandering. Somewhat surprising is how much God is referred to throughout, used most effectively in "Desperate"
, where Verbal Kent raps: "The voice in the back of my mind sighs, have hope. I have rope. I could end it all, feelin' that" Local rapper found hanging from the ceiling fan. That would be the easy way out though, but what would that amount to, apart from an outro" That's not what I'm about, yo, I'm never for short-cuts. And taking life is never right, that's something the Lord does."
Songs range from being about genuine love, such as "Never Go"
and "Sweet Love"
, all the way to being about knowingly poisoning ourselves and our souls with drugs and alcohol out of an attempt to try and forget, as made evident in the excellent "Impaired Judgement"
. The amount of variety woven throughout the record is astounding and proves to be extremely rewarding upon multiple listens. In dealing with touchy topics, such as suicide and depression, Ugly Heroes
succeed in moulding an album that connects on more than a simple nodding-of-the-head level, the thought-provoking lyrics keep you constantly-engaged. The collected calming nature of the entire production, even during some of the more angry songs, such as "Graves"
, make it a surprising joy as the album progresses further along the railway toward it's closer, the extremely-motivating "Push"
; which even ends with the classic Ferris Bueller
quote, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."
Overall, there's not much to complain about with this record. While it may seem to be growing a bit repetitious at times, the relaxed nature of the rappers are the reason for this, and it's far from a detriment, you just need to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy the hard work being pulsated throughout this meaningful record. There are a lot of mentions of the human heart and soul here, something which seemingly reminds the rappers at hand that they're making an album for people who need it, as opposed to pandering to the masses with bumping bass-lines, and profanity-laced hooks. Here's hoping that the future of rap can produce more quality records like this one, as opposed to the mindless drivel that we've heard a billion times over-and-over-and-over again.