Good Old-Fashioned Braggadocio Rap
Unloading lyrical clips from the land of computer chips, Rasco already put the hip-hop nation on notice with last year's underground hit "The UnA.S.S.I.S.T.E.D." Mixing hard-hitting battle rhymes over a now-classic Fanatic beat, Rasco put it down that he's here to slap sucker MCs silly. But one successful 12-inch doesn't necessarily mean much -- remember one-hit wonders Mad Skillz and Blahzay Blahzay? You see my point.
Rasco's debut album, Time Waits For No Man, is strong enough to overcome any doubts of his legitimacy in the West Coast hip-hop community. What stands out on his album is the consistency. During an era in which artists are only expected to put out a handful of strong songs, surrounded by a mound of garbage filler, Rasco comes out with a solid 14-song album that rarely falters a step. The significance of this should not be understated -- the San Francisco Bay Area hasn't seen a debut underground album of this scope and caliber since the Hieroglyphics first gained popularity in 1993 and '94. Moreover, Time Waits For No Man is the first full-length project Stones Throw Records has put out by an MC (as opposed to a DJ) and should help boost the indie label's stock considerably.
Rasco's main strength -- and his main liability -- is that he's an old-fashioned braggadocio rapper. More than the money-lust that drives other MCs, Rasco brings some heavy ego to the mic on Time Waits For No Man. At his best, Rasco is a compelling personality; his baritone voice reaches out and demands attention, while his rhyme schemes are well-constructed, sounding neither contrived nor overly ambitious. At his worst, Rasco descends into one-dimensionality and his tracks begin to sound a bit too similar. With 16 tracks, Time Waits For No Man is likely to wear thin in parts, even if the bulk of the album still holds up.
It doesn't hurt that Rasco's employed some of the best new producers the West Coast has to offer, including Paul Nice, Evidence, Fanatic, Kutmasta Kurt and of course, Peanut Butter Wolf. Overall, the album's sound tends more to the minimalistic, more in line with the staccato beats of NYC than with the stereotypically symphonic G-funked creations of the West Coast. It's a good match for Rasco, since his rugged style stands out against the stark sonic landscape rather than drowning in overproduced syrupiness.
However, that doesn't mean Rasco and his beat-makers have to hit you with the same stuff every time. Rasco comes off just as strong over a tension-filled track like "What It's All About," as he does over the loopy and quirky piano play on "Heat Seeking" (both beats by Paul Nice). Also worth mentioning is "Major League," which bridges two Bay Area indie labels -- Stones Throw and ABB Records. From ABB are Defari and Dilated Peoples, arguably two of the hottest L.A. hip-hop artists right now, and Evidence delivers the beat for all four (Defari, Evidence, Iriscience and Rasco) to flow over. Even better is "Take It Back Home," Rasco's pairing with Planet Asia from Fresno, Calif. On the break is Kutmasta Kurt, who rejuices the old Chill Rob G "Wild Pitch" beat and makes it absolutely kinetic, to the benefit of both Planet Asia and Rasco, who simply demolish this song.
The only big mistake on the album is "Hey Love" -- Rasco just can't pull off a love song. And certainly, with a one-track formula, it's going to wear thin at times (as on "Me and My Crew"). In the future, Rasco needs to explore new MCing avenues if he's going to hold our attention for 60 minutes plus.
On the album's best song, "What Y'all Wanna Do?," Rasco finishes up another one of his MC executions, and Peanut Butter introduces some sublime soul sampling on the hook. In that moment, when the concrete hardness of Rasco's rhymes merges with the abstract smoothness of Peanut's production, you realize that Rasco doesn't need to appeal to everyone all the time. The Soulfather Rasco might mostly be about pounding wack rappers into submission, but at least he'll find a dozen different ways to get the job done.