April 19, 2007

Review: Rap: With or Without a Day Job

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3 out of 5 Stars
You may have missed Consequence the first time around. His career as rapper, which dates back to 1993, has largely been spent in the shadows of his skyscraping partners in rhyme. He first appeared as the nepotistic and uncelebrated third rapper of the New York icons A Tribe Called Quest (cousin Q-Tip was one of the group’s two main emcees).
Consequence’s work with the group did not lead to other successes. Instead, he remained idle and unwanted for the eight years between contributing extensively to Tribe’s penultimate album, Beats, Rhymes and Life and re-emerging alongside Kanye West on his 2004 blockbuster The College Dropout. In both cases, though, Consequence’s presence on great music did not mark him as a great rapper.
He hopes all will change with the release of his first true studio album, Don’t Quit Your Day Job.
The album is released on Kanye West’s record label and “conscious rapper” Mecca, Getting Out Our Dreams (GOOD) Music — home to Common, John Legend and other, similarly antiseptic acts. This is a great fit for Consequence (Dexter Mills Jr.), who works particularly well beside Mr. Legend. The two smoothly lament romantic quandaries (which seem to unendingly plague R&B singers) on “Feel This Way”. Over its inoffensive guitar plucks and layered, high-pitched vocals, the two weave in and out on fidelity and baggage. It is thick with good-guy-boyfriend befuddlement and the message is simple: “I don’t know what I ever did to you/ to make you feel this way”. But it seems heartfelt enough.
One thing becomes apparent about Consequence on this album: he prefers being a rap star to working in retail. On “Job Song,” he considers the age-old question, “How’d I get stuck in this dead end job if I can rap?” Over a choppy, chirping beat, he raps about the frustration with his new job at a Manhattan Banana Republic. And while he complains about his job with hoots and hosannas, Cons knows “this just ain’t where I’m s’posed to be.” Don’t you see, he’s been a rapper and he’ll always be a rapper.
On the next track, “Don’t Forget Em,” perhaps a sequel to “Job Song,” Consequence vows to keep in mind the people of his past. Musically, it’s unusual. Somehow, producer Mr. Kanye West blends doo-wop-style humming (think college a-capella) and a jolly flute riff (think Jethro Tull’s “Thick as a Brick”) into a catchy ditty.
Consequence, who struggles to slip his words past what must be a very fat tongue, reaches his finest flow on “Don’t Forget Em.” Cons speaks to his life of hustle, living in Queens: “This is where I learned to scrap/ and this is how I learned to stack/ penny by penny and bit by bit/ watching the older heads move brick by brick/ and one hand will wash the other.”
His street wisdom will lead into a compelling philosophy of togetherness: “You are me and I am you and I won’t never forget.”