I’m always looking to hear young hip hop artists with true lyrical skills and a fresh sound. The latest MC I’ve run across, cut from this cloth, is RVA’s Tai Wo. I recently saw him perform at The Camel when he opened for Evan Barlow. It was there that he gave me a copy of his recently released album Black Rose. While the Evan Barlow crowd isn’t exactly the same fans that will go out and get Black Rose first week, it was at that show that I was able to see his stage presences, his confidence, his lyrical skill, and his ability to win over fans, one song at a time. It was an impressive live performance. And following that performance, I was excited to hear Black Rose.
Black Rose is a total of 18 tracks, including two bonus cuts. My instant take away is that Tai Wo is a true lyricist and he has bars upon bars upon bars. That’s a good thing. But there are times when I’m not exactly sure where his bars are taking me. Kind of like the scene in Hustle and Flow, when Terrence Howard is told that it’s great that he has tons of bars but he needs hooks and direction. It’s not that bad for Tai Wo, not in the least bit, but there are parts on the first half of the album that I’m searching to see where he’s taking me, either that or I’m just not sure I’m following correctly.
Another issue that comes out early is that Tai Wo is ahead of some of his production on the album. For example, I really like the bars he spits on the track “I Am Legend” to the point where it’s one of the best songs on the album BUT when listening to it – it does seem that something is off. Maybe it’s the levels in the mix – but the bars do outshine the production. That’s not the case on every track but it stands out of a few. “I Am Legend” is a dope track, and the beat is good…that’s just my read. The bars he spits are powerful. And it’s a good introduction to the entire Black Rose.
Tai Wo channels his inner Yeezus on the track “Ascension” produced by Phictitious 5. I really feel this track highlights Tai Wo’s range and ability to spit over a diverse beat. “Ascension” opened my eyes a bit because everyone’s not rhyming over that type of track…again Yeezus but no one I can think of in RVA. And Tai Wo rocks it…it’s clearly his zone.
He also takes it down well with the track “Give My All” featuring T-Soul, produced by 6thDimension. I really like this track.
Finally, I will share “Rose Pedal Prayer” produced by Big Torrin. I think this was the flow I was looking for most of the album. Sometimes – too often – straight bars can get lost if you don’t have that pocket where people can hear every bar and feel the track. “Rose Pedal Prayer” is that perfect pocket for Tai Wo. You hear his bars, you understand the message, it’s really good work.
I like a number of songs on Black Rose. I think the bars he spits on the track “Blind Leading the Blind” featuring Ari Jordan are some of the hardest on the album. And I didn’t even mention my girl, Erikka J’s feature. No doubt, it’s a complete project that shows range, diversity, and bars upon bars upon bars. With that said, there is a lot of room for growth. 18 tracks probably could have been 10 really solid tracks. And Tai Wo needs to make sure he in his pocket on every track -the bars are understandable and not run on. Also , he could add more tracks with a narrative that takes the listener on a journey. I get the feeling that he’s an amazing storyteller. We live in the new age of hip hop: J. Cole, Kendrick, Drake, and I know Tai Wo has crazy ability…you can just tell. If he keeps his work ethic, he’s going to only get better and better. The future is bright. #WESEEIT
I rate Black Rose 3.4 out of 5 mics. Make sure you get the album on Bandcamp.
Let me know what you think in the comments.
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The Cheats Movement Scoring Scale:
5 mics = classic,
4.5 is a crazy album.
3 mics is average.
2 mics needs work.