The appeal of rap has the same appeal of a rated-R movie. While there are tons of watered-down family titles along with two squares more of pornographic/violent tapes that purify their intentions and cater to their individual markets, a good rated-R movie tries to bring in elements from several different perverse yet mainstream attractions into a streamlined if slightly artificial product that?s easier and more socially acceptable to consume. For some readers, I may never be able to convince you that rap music isn?t a compromise of artistic values (you suck, by the way,) but I can get you to admit that you like R-rated movies. Maybe you prefer your R-rated movies with some substance, or completely bugged and drugged out, but you have to admit you?ve seen and enjoyed more than a few trashy bits of mainstream cinema. Can?t you admit deep down, that you?ve liked rap in the past? That maybe, you can like it in the future?
?I?m lost in thought/ No, I?m lost inside a movie with absolutely no plot/ That sort of horrible flick in which every frame shot/ Is just a nameless claim to fame with no message or moral taught/ Distraught about a lot of choices that I haven?t made/ And now a slave to circumstance without a chance at seeing change/ Caught before a glowing screen where every single scene?s the same/ I claim to never pay attention and pretend it eases pain?
- ?The Questions?
The movie analogy fits especially well with hip-hop as the genre has most shamelessly shared in the silver screen legacy of every cult film on the planet, sometimes inhabiting characters for the breadth of a slim career, or, if you?re say, J-zone or a similar producer, you can seamlessly loop a million film snippets into a coherent, completely redone narrative with wit and style. But pure narrative is at the heart of the music, from its very first hit single with its ode to indigestion through just about every rap album that?s come out in history. When the idea of ?Keeping It Real? suddenly affected the pen-strokes of a generation of hungry MCs in the 90s, the mysterious ?It? created a still tenuous relationship between street facts and mythologized fiction leading to more credibility battles than a New York Times staff meeting. Suddenly, hip-hop started looking more like professional wrestling with its dramatic posturing and fact-finding crews revealing scandalous tidbits on their mortal street enemies, and some ask if Al Capone lost his war through the gossip column. Honestly, any further stylistic embellishment of the genre will only fuel its novelty status. I need a pure expression to reaffirm my faith first, just like I need one good release to make me want to return to a movie theater.
Well, Intuition is a rapper. Said again, Intuition is a rapper?s rapper who uses the narrative as his medium to reflect a vaguely familiar world to the breadth of our aimless generation. Shamelessly, I can relate a lot to this generation of hip-hop fans. We grew up on the break, rewinding classic verses ten times over, still impressed by a polysyllabic storm of rhymes, and well-orchestrated samples. But where has it all lead? The ?booze, beats, and fast food? lifestyle of Intuition?s world has produced about a million misanthropic American males terminally bored and jaded but compelled to bust the facts of our lives, however pathetic and mundane, shot through the prism of cultural over-saturation and a thirst for genuine experience. Speaking as much from the ear as from the heart, ?Stories About Nothing? seems a clever misnomer as these stories contain everything important to the individual subjects, but absolutely nothing important to the rest of the world, present company included.
All praises due to Intuition, but let?s not all bow to the egoism of merely one group member when it took two other fine craftsmen to create this album. Equalibrum crafts an array of fine beats that take root in the laid-back, jazz-infused style dating back to the Native Tongues but stretching through the west coast tape underground in ?90s from Log Cabin to Living Legends to Westcoast Workforce and the heads gathering around LA2thebay website. But lacking in tape compression brings the depth of the samples out where they lack warmth, they gain composition and clarity. Drums snap smoothly across tracks and bass is used sparingly but precisely. DJ murjOne adds tons of adept scratch choruses and fade-outs to fill out the sound in a classically hip-hop way.
The benefit of having a single production squad and a bare minimum of guest appearances means that the album sounds like a complete statement rather than a m?lange of unfulfilling collaborative gestures. Intuition moves through a variety of styles with ease. ?Forget Today? takes the auteur approach with a semi-autobiographical track, thinly hidden behind a vague third-person and becomes an anthem for the modern urban slacker with a few too many painfully relatable lines. Its sing-a-long chorus (remember when you used to sing along with songs?) ?And he?s a grown man, but is he grown up?? became a question I now can?t help asking myself three times a day. The afore-quoted ?The Questions? erases any ambiguity with a clear first person lamentation of the self-destructive reflection in the loneliest of moments home from college for the holidays. Uh, at least for me. The up-tempo ?Head in the Clouds? provides the perfect counterpoint to this track. ?I no longer deal in reality, it doesn?t challenge me? is about as braggadocio as this album gets and is all the better for it.
Yeah, there are a handful of songs that don?t quite do justice to the groups talents, usually in search of stylistic breadth, but my complaints are minor. ?Destiny? remains a one-off kind of listen, a comedy rap that I can?t even comment on without spoiling. The great beat and interesting verbiage make this hard to hate though. ?Fix Her Up Her? tries its hand at the vague third-person used in ?Forget Today? to comment on relationships but suffers from a lack of concrete details that made the other story tracks so successful. Really, like any story whether it?s in news, books, or rap albums, it?s the details that separate the merely good songs from the truly great. I?m not sure rap would be as popular if it weren?t so great on the little details, again, a fact that has been lost on movie producers and lyricists alike. But other than that, I would have liked a little more variation in Intuition?s vocal delivery and beat choices toward the end. This may have given the album a stronger finish, as trying to listen straight through tends to get repetitive after the first ten songs.
Overall, this is one of the most impressive rap debuts I have heard in a minute. He?s rocked a couple of shows in So Cal that, according to my erudite sources, actually surpass the intensity of emotion on the album (!?). Shit, I?m all for it. For those who lost faith in emotional hip-hop after Atmosphere became just another teen-girl-baiting entity and Sage Francis forgot how to rap but learned how to be self-righteous, this album will definitely satisfy those dormant cravings. I mean, we all love rap (admit it!) but we can?t all sound like Snoop. So for those of us who don?t play it so close to the vest, we got Intuition rapping his ass off for the good of the industry and his own sanity. As a great debut, we can only hope he runs his own plot in the right direction, avoiding the same pitfalls as those forbearers. 8/10 -- Kenneth Zubiate (22 August, 2007)