Wordsmith: Bridging the Gap (with Chubb Rock)
Wordsmith is a ridiculously prolific MC. It feels like every week he sends out an e-mail announcing a new track, collaboration, album, and/or mixtape. Indeed, just a few months ago, Wordsmith dropped A Baltimore Martini, a collaboration with British MC I.N.C. the Poet. And this month comes Bridging the Gap, Wordsmith's collaboration with old-school hip-hop totem Chubb Rock--a mix of duets and solo tracks. And based on what's already become a groundswell of internet/blog attention, it looks like this album is the Baltimore rapper's big moment.
It also feels like "big moment" is rather different for Wordsmith. The rapper exists in something of a parallel world in Baltimore. He doesn't chase 92Q spins--or complain about not getting them--or team with club producers, or hope for major-label deals, or chase the Ottobar crowd. Specifically, Wordsmith enjoys his own world of independent-minded (if not "indie"), old-school nodding hip-hop. And, really, who better to pair with than Chubb Rock?
Starting off with "Old Skool Flavor," the album doesn't hide anything with its intentions, shouting out in quick succession to Eazy-E, Cold Crush Brothers, KRS-One, Russell Simmons, and a whole bunch more who helped develop the flavor that DJ Swift recalls with a funky, boom-bap style. It's only one of a couple of tracks on the record not produced by Strada, though things move comfortably through hyperactive new-school dance-floor rap, R&B, and even a choice number called "Live From the Go-Go," which shows as much love to the Washington D.C. style as you expect and reinforces, again, that there really needs to be more rhyming over go-go beats.
"Who cares if he's younger and I'm older/ both of us rep the game/ we're soldiers/ we're here to fight for it/ and take it back/ together we're bridging the gap," raps Chubb Rock on the album's statement of purpose and title song. On his verse, Wordsmith, introduced as Chubb Rock's "apprentice," adds "New kid on the block/ chillin' here with Chubb Rock . . . he's old-school and I'm new school/ together we can make it real cool." On "Old 2 the New," the duo goes on the offense as Chubb Rock explains how he had to "re-enter the game" because the genre went "and got sickly." And there's a good deal of that variety of old-school insurgent posturing here, some of it you've certainly heard from elsewhere in underground hip-hop.
That said, Chubb Rock has a voice that's downright reassuring, particularly up against Wordsmith, whose flow at his worst sounds like a really pissed-off Talib Kweli, to the point where he's almost hissing and mixing in with the high-hat sizzle; he tends to really hang on to the last word of verses. Though when he let's go--as on the aforementioned go-go number--he comes unmoored and the rhymes sound more comfortable, natural, and, well, enunciated.