A film about Northwest hip-hop from 1999
Black Rose was released by MC Class while he was living in Atlanta, and then twice re-released from Los Angeles. Six years had elapsed since his time with Seattle rap group Brothers Of The Same Mind. This album feels very comfortable mixing spoken word poetry vibes into a slow, jazzy hip-hop format. The style is a departure from his work in the early 90s in which he rhymed much faster and louder. Black Rose sees the evolution of MC Class from a rowdy stage and cipher blaster to a laid-back armchair mastermind like Mycroft Holmes brilliantly calling the shots from his library with a glass of whiskey in his hand. Gone is the quick tempo and the urgency, and instead the album contains a very introspective rapper who takes his time with every word. A good example of this is the track “Free Your Mind.” Class seems like he has all the time in the world as he slowly drops lyrics explaining that the secret to a happy life is to let go of attachment. “Free Your Mind” captures the irresistible mass appeal that Bobby McFerrin used in 1988’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy” by speaking directly to listeners about their own lives.
“Those Were The Days” is a track about the early days of Hip Hop in New York. Class reminisces wistfully about the good old days of rap. He drops a lot of breadcrumbs for people to follow regarding some of the early names in 1980s hip-hop. Some might find it a little too on the nose, but I love it. Getting into spoken word territory, “Tennis Shoe Pimp” is all about relationships and how difficult they can be. Class wonders why nice guys finish last, rapping, “You didn’t want a nice guy to begin with because that’s boring and no fun, you want a man that’s on the run.” Another excellent track “Psychic Vampires” continues the theme of empowerment from “Free Your Mind,” and Class uses this track to warn us about people who are time and energy suckers, bringing us down. In “Psychic Vampires” Class uses his voice like an instrument dipping and rising, the way a musician would use a horn or a piano.
The album doesn’t always work, “Sticky Rice” might be trying to compliment the beauty of Asian culture, but it feels more like it sexually exoticizes Asian women instead of showing genuine appreciation. But most of the tracks land solidly and there is a great variety of beats to be found. The loose remix of his early ’90s track “Fishin” at the beginning of the album connects this new album to his earlier work, and his delivery is chilled like a bottle of sparkling water. Overall, Black Rose is a tremendous effort and it shows the growth of MC Class as an artist and a writer compared to his short solo tape in 1993 titled Brother From The Projects. When Black Rose is at its best it combines poetry and rap, and the jazz musical environment is the perfect setting for the smooth rap delicacies served up by MC Class. (Written by Novocaine132.)