Link to our Facebook
Link to our Instagram

Album Review: Lateef The Truthspeaker

14 April 2012 | 2:17 pm | James d'Apice

He plays it safe and glories in the inoffensive.

This is at once the best and worst of post-2000 West Coast rap. There's the hip pop silliness and clumsy pop politics we associate with, for example, Jurassic 5 or Lateef's occasional colleagues at Quannum. That irksome influence is balanced out by the challenging crunchy angst we associate with up and coming west coasters like Nocando or Open Mike Eagle from Alphapup. When Lateef spends too much time focusing on the former Firewire suffers. When he delves into the latter this album soars. This is Lateef's solo debut at age 37. It might be fitting, then, to recall William Blake. For these are songs of innocence and experience.

In Oakland our host teams up with two of Oakland's most prominent: Del Tha Funky Homosapien and The Grouch. It's a great track. As an ode to The O it's a little disrespectful, a little playful. It's the clattering beat that stands out most strongly though; all mechanical fuzz with a few melodic bleep-bloops hovering over the top. It sounds like a mighty machine stirring into life. Let's Get Up is a little more homely. A cute, understated hook with some gentle bragging thrown in. Heckuvit is a surprise. Lateef shows some technique here with little breath control tricks and ratatat flow. Most impressive, though, is his ability to carry a melody even as his lungs become emptier and emptier. Say What You Want, an unwelcome journey to the Wild West, and Only Thought, a track that carries with it echoes of Maroon 5, are less successful.

Yin and yang here, then. At times this ancient debutante is showing us what's new and exciting. At other times he plays it safe and glories in the inoffensive. It frustrating, and it prevents us from really falling in love with Firewire (or even getting to third base).