Back in 1998, Wordsworth caught the attention of rap fans with his appearances on posse cuts with A Tribe Called Quest (“Rock Rock Y’all”) and Black Star (“Twice Inna Lifetime”). By ’04, he humbly released his solo debut, Mirror Music, with critical acclaim. Retaining a solid presence amongst niche, underground fan base in hip-hop’s indie circuit, Wordsworth was one of the many lyrics-driven, cypher-tested rappers championed amongst shoppers found at the now defunct (yet iconic) New York City record hub Fat Beats, or attendees of the legendary Lyricist Lounge concerts.
On his latest offering, The Photo Album, the Brooklyn MC continues where he left off, with potent verses and production that rings early-aughts East Coast indie-rap nostalgia. It’s true to Wordsworth’s colors, and the album’s a solid look into the MC’s very personal life as a rapper, a father, and an observer of America’s happenings—both good and bad.
From the kicker, it’s clear the song’s wordplay weighs a heavier role than melody and hooks. On “Destiny,” a conceited yet self-reflective affirmation of Wordsworth’s value, braggadocio is spewed minus clichéd punchlines. “Coloring Book” is a social commentary, referencing barricades of inner cities by attributing to its colors (“green dumpsters with black mask for burglaries”). On motivational encouragements of “Don’t Settle” and “Big Dreamer,” Wordsworth dabbles the fine line of preachy and conversational.
But how much are his words actually worth when they’re repetitively wordy? Despite his capabilities as a rhymeslinger of polished storytelling feat and lyricism, the music of The Photo Album—with its ample load of materials—fails to entertain beyond the words. And its heavy concentration on contents results in a lackluster creation, void of fun.
Wordsworth can rap, he can write, and he can construct themes. Now the challenge is for the music to support those qualities. —Jaeki Cho