On Now

Shaman’s Selections: Issue – Liquid Wisdom

Written by Adam Schenkel. Posted in Music, Reviews

It’s no secret that The Point tends to stick to music in the realm of indie and alternative rock. Sure, some songs with a little bit more of an electronic influence or maybe even some folk songs may find their way into the station’s playlist, but for the most part we keep it pretty indie. And that’s completely OK, its how radio stations work and there’s nothing wrong with it. But any fool knows that there are abundant multitudes of different types of music. Rock, jazz, classical, electronic, pop, punk, metal, and many other genres and sub-genres populate the overarching idea known as music. I like darn near every genre out there, but one of my definite favorites is the umbrella of hip-hop and rap. That’s where this review comes in. We’re putting a hip-hop review on the website, and it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because this album is really good, and deserves to have words written about it. By me. So lets get to it.

Issue – Liquid Wisdom

liquid wisdom

Hip-hop and rap have many cultural hubs, and of course the paramount examples of these include the East Coast scene which is essentially New York City, and the West Coast scene, of which Los Angeles is typically considered the capital. These scenes have been competing, feuding, and doing their own thing since the genre’s birth back in the 1980’s, with a peak in the prominence of the two scenes in the ’90s. Music is still pouring out of these scenes, though in my opinion the West Coast certainly currently has the qualitative edge over the East. Big names have been coming out of the L.A. rap scene and captivating hordes of listeners, notably Kendrick Lamar and his Black Hippy crew and Tyler, the Creator and his Odd Future crew to name a few. That music is really good, which is great, but that’s not what this review is about. This review is about revealing an album from a scene almost just as vibrant, and some 400 miles north of L.A. The San Francisco Bay Area is home to one of the most exciting and active scenes in rap right now, though it hasn’t garnered nearly the attention, which is a shame, as some quality releases simply get overlooked. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s not like this album would be bumping in every youth-owned stereo in the country had Issue come from the more acclaimed L.A. area instead of the Bay Area scene (he’s specifically from Vallejo, on the north end of the bay), the album is still pretty out-there, and maybe a bit inaccessible for some listeners. But that doesn’t mean you can’t emit it from your (potentially youth-owned) stereo.

One of the more prominent figures in the Bay Area rap scene is E-40, and he’s been so since the early 90’s. His stuff is pretty good. He has a son, Droop-E, who also raps, and his stuff is pretty swell as well. The music of this father/son pair is pretty straightforward, nothing out-of-the-ordinary hip-hop, and of course there’s nothing wrong with being ordinary, especially when your work is good. However, E-40 has another son, and Droop-E has a teenage brother. This guy also raps, and his name is Issue.

To be honest, Issue is a bit of a weird bird, and his music reflects that quality; it’s pretty experimental and kinda out-there. I’ve never had a problem with oddity, however. One of the great things about hip-hop is how varied it can be, with styles ranging from fast, raucous, and loud (a fairly solid example of something like this would be the music found on a label like Tech N9ne’s Strange Music) to styles that favor slower beats, hazy atmosphere, and overall a more chilled-out vibe (the relatively new phenomena called “Cloud Rap” partially pioneered by A$AP Rocky’s first mix-tape comes to mind), and of course there’s material styled everywhere in between. “Liquid Wisdom” occupies the realm closer to the second example. For the most part, the tempo is slow, the album carries a distinctly relaxing vibe, and a fairly hazy atmosphere is present as well.  Most songs carry a traditional hip-hop beat format and structure, and those songs definitely don’t suffer because of it, however, one of the songs that steps out of this zone (Livin’ on a Dream) ends up as one of the stop tracks. It’s a little poppier, with fewer legitimate rap verses and more of a style more akin to singing, and the beat almost calls to mind some sort of atmosphere from the 80’s or early 90’s. “Liquid Wisdom” also succeeds through the power of variety; no two songs sound too similar. This diversity makes the listen all that much more engaging, locking in the listener’s interest through the remarkably odd yet undeniably catchy and addictive tracks that populate the album.

One of the more peculiar yet more pleasant aspects of the album is its primary lyrical focus: drinking tea. This is pretty unusual, but certainly original and makes for a welcome shift from many of the regular archetypes of rap lyrics, though it’s not to say that every line focuses on the consumption of Issue’s favorite beverage, there are references to plenty of other things (I think he may have a slight fascination with Europe). Now, I don’t have any problems in the slightest with profanity and vulgarity (to be fair, I’m pretty guilty myself), but I’ll also never have a problem with listening to hip-hop that doesn’t feature some sort of curse once per line. Honestly, its pretty refreshing to experience lyrics without excessive profanity for a multitude of reasons; the ability to use everyday words while crafting lyrics shows a sort of skill, and the experience of listening to rap that doesn’t focus solely on bedding an exorbitant number of women or imbibing as many psychoactive substances as possible also shows Issue’s raw talent; the talent to craft good music that focuses solely on itself and places no importance on that of other artists. This album doesn’t fall into the fair number of stereotypes common in hip-hop (though these stereotypes definitely don’t inherently detract from the music), but “Liquid Wisdom” is all the better for it.

If I say anymore about the music itself I feel that I’ll begin to drift into arbitrary discussion that ultimately accomplishes nothing; I keep the belief that words are inadequate substitutes for experience. So instead I’ll just have to tell you that if you like chill music, especially chill hip-hop, check this album out. Its a breath of fresh air, and pretty addictive too. Final summation: The album cover sums up the music pretty well. Listen to it. I always question the true value of rating systems with regards to music, but as I’m obligated to pick one, I’d go with something like 4.3 out of 5. Like I said earlier, it may be a little harder to get into for some people than many other releases, but if you do get it, “Liquid Wisdom” is quite the treat.

If you’re interested in hearing the album, Issue has a SoundCloud where it is currently streaming, and many magazine and blog pages also have the stream embedded. Also available from the SoundCloud page is a free download.

Copyright © 2011 WCYT The Point 91.1 FM