March 14, 2014

Max Bell went to Catholic school. 

Cilvia Demo is the best TDE release of 2014 thus far (review here). Oxymoron has its merits, but Rashad deals in introspection more poignantly. His wit and wordplay are sharper. His precocious wisdom is tempered by bursts of willful waywardness. In other words, he loves smoking trees and hates advice. So it goes when you’ve moved from Chattanooga to the land of women, weed, and weather in your 20s.

“Heavenly Father” might be my favorite song on the album. D. Sanders’ (“Gusto”) beat is a sun-drenched kiss of soul, rays of rhythm colored by stained glass. Church organs, guitars, angelic vocals, and the persistent crackle of the needle on the record — this is how you build from the blueprint.

Rashad’s soul baring isn’t forced. His struggles are real, the antithesis of mendacious emo rap (see Macklemore). Suicide, substance abuse, self-respect (or lack thereof), sanity, sativa, and the empty promise of new pussy — this is an honest prayer to the voiceless cosmos. The most harrowing lyrics come when he addresses his absentee father. A reminder that the scars of youth seldom fade.

With his delivery Rashad proves that you don’t have to sacrifice melody for punchlines. They can co-exist. His sing-song cadence renders every lyric doubly affecting, cathartic rather than crushing.

The visuals reflect the chill of the words rather than the warmth of the production. On the darkest night Rashad walks through the snow alone. He remains small in the long shots and pained in the close ups. Anything more would’ve been too much. Minimal and unadorned fits like the perfect pair of winter boots.

The rest of Cilvia Demo is below the jump. It’ not going to hit you over the head with the butt of the strap at every turn, but it demands your attention. It’s one of the most assured and promising arrivals I’ve heard in years. Whether Rashad capitalizes on the promise remains to be seen. For now, sit with the record, throw it on when stuck in traffic or as you cruise the coast with your spliff lit. Rap was not made for computer speakers. Church.

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