The idea of having a Rakaa solo album might seem daunting, especially for some hip-hop fans who may be diehard supporters of Dilated Peoples but are uncertain of any solo project. If you are a Rakaa fan, you don’t have to worry about this one being a disappointment, or at least I wasn’t worried.
Crown Of Thorns (Decon): I mean look at the title right there. Is it a metaphor to suggest that he knew and expected to be put up on a metaphorical cross, to risk exposure and ridicule, or shameless praise? Or is it a means of honor? Regardless of how you read the title, it’s an album where the man known as Iriscience is able to keep one foot on the side of that “real hip-hop” but another to continue on with a more accessible side that Dilated Peoples attempted to do with their last album. By being accessible does not mean he’s trying to make sellout music, whatever that may mean in 2010. What you do hear is someone who knows he can’t remain true to one person’s view of what hip-hop should be, but one must be diverse, just like Rakaa himself.
I’ll put it this way. While the attitude that Kanye West has shared in his music is nothing new, there’s a bit of that swagger, sans ego, in some of Rakaa’s delivery, and the thing about it is that it works. When he hits us up with some dope rhymes over incredible beats, it does not sound dated one bit. There’s an old school feel, without a doubt, but it’s very much in the now, the same way Slug (of Atmosphere) and Blueprint do it. You still have the top notch clever rhymes, there’s still the deliver you know and love, that one that may have made him your LL Cool J or Rakim or KRS-One.
I’m from the school where rappers were heroes because we honored their voices, rapping techniques, and level of intelligence, we were down with the flow from someone in the know. While Rakaa is someone perhaps too humble to call himself a hero, he is someone who takes pride in what he does and shares that with the world. To rock the mic means not only wanting to be heard, but knowing you have the capabilities on how to be heard. There’s a level of confidence on Crown Of Thorns that comes from someone who knows and loves what he’s doing, and the one thing I love about the album is that he sounds like he’s having fun. A perfect representation of what hip-hop music is.