Once you get past the long name, unassuming album art and subtle flaws peculiar to Mc Preacha's person, this is a good listen.
Once in a while, music surprises you and then your summation surprises you. McSkill ThaPreacha’s ''The 9th Chapter'' album is one of them; an imperfect album, but a rewarding listen nonetheless.
As much as reviews are purely about emotional reactions, there has to be a balance of perspectives.
This will not be a conventional album review that addresses each song through an x-ray vision that disintegrates the various facets of each song, before making a summation. Instead, it will seek to address the summation of the album through the various issues that generally permeate it.
The reason is simple; addressing ''The 9th Chapter'' song by song might suit it from a linear perspective because this album does not have a central, cohesive narrative, but then, in the end, scoring the album as a body of work will make it seem disjointed and therein lies the first issue.
With a deftly organized tracklist that elevates the listening experience, nearly deflecting or even camouflaging the album’s flaw with a creative cloak, there is an ease of transcendence from one song to another.
The tracklist was the chief strength of this album and the vehicle that drives its enjoyability. It allows the listener to savour each track independently.
The first four tracks were more empathetic, evoking the emotive hue of a rapper who wants his side that feels to be duly felt and represented on those tracks. Bits and pieces of other sides to him or his other personalities that became full-blown on the next five songs intermittently made appearances through the first third.
Of course, it helps that a single producer and regular collaborator Stormatique produced the album. Aided by brilliant production that is primarily rooted in classic beatbox and boom bap and occasional dabbles in ballad-rap, trap music, and drum ‘n bass, there is a central sound, albeit with a diversity of subgenres that boost the album.
The next five tracks showcased a savage side to Mc Skill who became more vicious, ruthless and vindictive.
He addresses people who never believed in him, he addresses an obviously long-held in anger toward mumble rap and the scourge of 'Oppressors' and even discredits the importance of the Permanent Voters’ Card, before going through a kaleidoscope of 'Memories' in a representation of smoke and mirrors.
The final three tracks showcased the empathetic and vindictive parts to Mcskill, but he was more aspirational, relatable and idealistic. 'Mic Check' and 'Trust The Process' convey topics a lot of us will sufficiently relate with.
The problem though is that the album has no cohesion of thematic base. Ordinarily, that will be a problem for me, but then, I surprised myself. An album should sometimes be perceived from what it is and not what it was meant to be.
There is a fairly integrating glue on the album and that is Mcskill himself as the creator-in-chief. Every song addressed different sides to the creator and the many issues he visibly felt the need to address and that is sufficient because, every topic picked on each track was significantly addressed.
Nonetheless, Mcskill can be a little self-absorbed. For example, on 'Oppressor', while he could have stuck to talking about his major theme, he delved a little too much into himself.
The album was mostly told from a first-person perspective, but there is an air of self-absorption that makes the listener want more on some tracks — the feeling that some of those tracks could cut to another level.
Plus points for honest deliveries and storytelling as well. It doesn’t seem he wanted to create a cohesive body of work and that’s okay too — or it should be. This album is not scatterbrained, it’s just different.
As noted earlier, the production is firmly rooted in classic Hip-hop, beatboxing and boom bap with occasional dabbles in ballad-rap, drum ‘n bass, and trap music. You feel there is a central sound despite the many subgenre diversity.
The production on this album is top notch. Even when the beats are intentionally handled with a sandpaper feel like on 'Mic Check 2.0', there is a polished, enjoyable sound as the production laid on Italian wood. The production on 'Walk', 'Real Talk' and 'Trust the Process' are particularly brilliant.
There is a feeling of expertise from Stormatique as an all-around music maker. An imaginary trip into the embers which 'Trust The Process' was forged make a listener with an obsession with good production appreciate the running water, chirping birds, sneaky snake, and noisy toad effects.
The first part of the album was more contemporary with the drum ‘n bass and trap drums, the second part was more vintage music and the final part, more risqué and out of the box.
Lyricism and flow didn’t always go well with beats
No rapper is perfect, not even the legendary Jay Z who’s arguably not as technically adaptable and enjoyable to several speeds, beats per minute or beat styles as say a Pusha T whom many will say is not on the same level. Listeners just get used to weaknesses till they don’t appear to anymore.
On The 9th Chapter, while you could easily appreciate what is being said, sometimes you could not help but want more from the technique you’re listening to, though by no means poor.
Sometimes, it felt like lines with insufficient words get stretched to fill a bar. Other times, it felt like lines with slightly excessive words get choked up, to not spill onto the next bars.
Sometimes as well, it felt like the cadences were a breath shorter or a breath too dense. Other times in between bars, you could find the holes and it’s sometimes exposed by major weakness Mcskill ThaPreacha has; phonology and word pronunciation.
The problem of phonology and pronunciation
Talent or proven ability is not the problem with Mcskill, the problem is that curves have edges. Hip-hop, especially when delivered in English and not in an indigineous tongue or vernacular carries is a demander of accurate word pronunciation.
For some people, it comes naturally, for others they had to learn it. Hip-hop blew off the ebonics and its peculiar accentuation of words, thus many early rappers thought that accentuation of words mark the standard for quality rap. Other rappers had to learn the ebonics so they would get taken seriously.
This same problem of rap prototyping and myopic standardizing is why rappers who spit in their local language or creole barely if ever get the recognition their talent and deliveries deserve.
Nonetheless, it is what it is, Mc Skill has a mild problem with word pronunciation that reflects where he is from.
Dennis Peter of Filter Free is right and it’s okay to have certain demands of rappers. He says in his article on 'Importance of enunciation in rap',
“Keeping up with a rapper that labours with word pronunciation is quite the unpleasant chore. Listening to indie rap veteran McSkill ThaPreacha’s recently released album, The 9th Chapter was a chore.
“Mostly down to curiosity, I pressed play on The 9th Chapter, but my enthusiasm ran out of the window faster than I could anticipate, but I sat — more like wrestled my way — through the whole thing.''
Harsh, but very true. Mcskill has bars, but it’s very hard to savour his projects without noticing the H-factor and intonations. It can sometimes be a downer because that’s what rap is and you can’t outrun it, but your fans would have learned to overlook the weaknesses for the plus points.
That said, I am one of the few people who can overlook word pronunciation – through a problem – to enjoy the music, which is really good. Superstar rap legend of trap music, T.I is very rooted in his Atlanta vernacular and accent, it is a part of him.
This album was definitely handled by a person who will make a really dope A&R; great tracklisting, great topics, suited to each beat and fantastically picked features; each feature fitting perfectly into the music. Credit to whoever handpicked Roey for Work, Justina Lee Brown, Shayjtoday, Mic Dailie, Freeborn and even Lasisi Elenu.
His adaptability is also welcome across several beats per minute, subgenres and styles.
'Listen to The Kids' featuring Justina Lee Brown, 'Real Talk' and 'Trust The Process' featuring the incredible Freeborn.
3-Worth Checking Out