May 19, 2008 - 3:58 PM
Life can bitch slap you sometimes. Just when you think you've got it figured out, the swift hand of fate can firmly knock that ass back into the reality that humanly endeavors ain't shit when stacked up against divine intervention. Sometimes it's the small stuff – forgetting deodorant on a hellishly hot day or realizing that your iPod is dead just before a long bus ride with no seats and ample supply of foul body odors. Other times, it's the heavier shit – familial implosions, death, illness, addiction. However it unfolds, you start to realize you're just the unwritten lyrics for a song that other people have to write, produce and remix.
Raashan Ahmad's first solo album, The Push (Om Records), is just that – a reminder of life in a cappella. It's nowhere near devoid of beats, because musically the album is a strong testament to the eight years Ahmad has spent rocking venues across the country with his live band, Crown City Rockers. It also features guest appearances that include J5's Chali 2na, DJ Vadim and Ahmad's two-year-old son, Yusef. But this is where the versatile emcee dictates the cataclysmic struggle to get through the daily grind of both life's subtle and overpowering "Oh, shit!" situations. It's the emcee in his most raw, most visceral moment.
The album starts with "Hello", Ahmad's reintroduction as the hip hop head too real to bury a soulmate who's only dead to folks afraid to bust out a two step at a live performance. It's him breathlessly maneuvering soul sampled beats on "Cancer", almost in tears, describing the moment he pulls his cancer-ridden mother off of life support. It's him, on "Heavenbound", peeking behind the headlines of a schizophrenic mother who throws her three small children into the San Francisco Bay to level his unadultered criticism at a system that neglects disenfranchised Black women. And it's him giving thanks, despite all the bullshit, for being blessed with a life and a story to tell.
So while it's been a good four years since the fun loving and energetic Crown City Rockers put out a new album, this is the emcee's personal dedication to life. In his own words, it's a "a non-collaborative effort born out of my own fears, insecurities, observations, triumphs and tragedies." He writes, "it is therapy over beats."
Jamilah King likes to call herself a writer as long as it pays the bills. She's currently an editor for WireTap Magazine, and her writing has also appeared in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, TheNation.com and on her bootleg blog, Grits & Eggs.