If the fact that Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” is currently the #1 song in the country is a reflection of where we are musically and mentally, someone forgot to tell Raz Simone.
On Monday, the Seattle rapper and producer released Cognitive Dissonance, his first release since partnering with Lyor Cohen, Todd Moscowitz and Kevin Liles over at their new company 300.
To say that Raz’s self-produced Cognitive Dissonance is moody is to barely scratch the surface. Over the course of 10 tracks, Simone unpacks complex emotions based on foul experiences and passes them onto the listener whether they want them or not.
It’s almost as if Simone dares his audience not to get swept up in the despair of “They’ll Speak.” “It’s 3 a.m. and these is what feelings sounds like,” he says before he throws you all of his troubles over a barely there beat.
“I’ve done a lot of sh–, boxing in all of the shots/ And the c—s and the crotches, just for the profit/ My girl getting raped and then I couldn’t stop it/ To top it, the plane crashed with me in the cockpit,” he rhymes, before explaining how his career as a pimp and the time that he sold drugs to his aunt affected his psyche.
From the first track it is clear that Simone is no saint, on “So Far, So Far” he threatens to punch his son’s mother in the face while wearing multiple rings on his fingers. It all sounds horrendous, but Simone still manages to turn the tables and gain some sense of sympathy from the listener. “When I was a little boy I had big dreams/ Big house, big wedding, big ring,” he sings innocently before admitting that he is so far from the man he thought he’d be.
Playing Cognitive Dissonance is much like listening to a good friend who suddenly dumps all of his problems on you — all you can do is lend an ear and try to understand.
“Swim Away” finds the rapper describing his literal and figurative hunger pangs. On the dreary “Don’t Shine,” Simone frets over a pregnancy scare after having a casual sex with a stranger and simultaneously juggles hustles, both pimping and drug dealing. Then on “Natural Resources” Raz samples a Kanye West rant where Yeezy rattles on about racism and classism. “We’re no longer n—as, we’re gods now,” Simone spits, pounding his chest.
Over the course of 45 minutes, Raz Simone’s breakout project plays out like a lyrical Murphy’s Law, everything that can possibly go wrong inevitably does. Even on the album’s closer “Still Mobbin’,” there is little to no resolve, but there is hope. “Still mobbin’, don’t care what a hater got to say/ We worked too hard, gone too hard, to let ya’ll little punks in the way,” he sings over bright tribal drums.
Maybe there is a happy day in the cards for Raz after all.