Epic Records
Epic Records

Mumble rappers as well as MCs beware, burgeoning spitter Nick Grant is exercising his microphone prowess with clever and sagacious wordplay on his debut album, Return of the Cool. Mixed with a healthy dose of mature content, he’s also calling out all hip-hop contenders—lyrically and morally.

Under the guidance of Jason Geter, a conductor of the Grand Hustle Records ship, Grant first got his feet wet with his 2016 mixtape ’88, a stellar, raw effort showcasing the South Carolina native’s natural talent on standouts like “Black Sinatra,” “Trouble (Where Is the Love)” and “Jungle,” among others.

Stepping aside from the jaw-dropping wordplay heard on ‘88, the Culture Republic/Epic Records signee easily ensconced himself in a bed of creative juices with songs like “Black Boy/White Boy,” a gripping track about stereotypes. And more recently, Grant released his Solange-inspired mixtape, A Seat at the Table (Plus One), on which the rapper shares lessons--probably gleaned from mother and grandfather--on being a gentlemen toward the opposite sex.

If Kendrick Lamar is a prophet, J.Cole is the common man's rapper and Drake is the global loverboy then Grant is the invigorating cool guy on Return of the Cool.

ROTC is an 11-track project that does a few things. First, it proves that 28-year-old Grant's lyrics grab a listener's attention. The effort also shows that this millennial rapper is, in fact, a student of his hip-hop forefathers. In addition, Grant uses a wide range of flows over a variety of beats to create radio-friendly bangers without losing his integrity. Lastly, where rappers have admitted to not doing homework on their hip-hop forefathers, ROTC has traces of Issac Haynes, Manu Dibango’s “Countdown at Kusini,” OutKast as well as Pharrell Williams. The kid is a student of not just hip-hop but Black music.

In fact, ROTC commences with the Issac Hayes-inspired “Sometimes.” Here, Grant rides his moral fibre to question a few themes clouding his mind such as loyalty, love and neglect, among other topics. In the midst of Grant's ethical reasoning, he offers the perfect balance of ear candy with rewind-worthy lines like, “Funny how a mac moving this powder make you blush.”

The first few songs on ROTC find the “Royalty” rapper aiming at his contemporaries by challenging their drug-infested rhymes, character and subject matter. Grant’s bravado shines through when spilling his unmatched and self-possessed cool with a slew of memorable 16s. “Ass fat, she don’t waist much like a cheap nigga,” he raps on the synth and bass-heavy “Bouncin’,” a club banger that meshes perfectly with his unfiltered delivery.

After proving that he can actually rap and challenging other hip-hop artists to sharpen their mouthpieces, Grant steps into a world of morally-grounded themes with noteworthy songs like “The Sing Along” and “Gotta Be More.”

On the former, which might be the most gripping and creative song on ROTC, Grant gets an assist from crooner Ricco Barrino. Here, the rapper holds a mirror in front of the entire rap game and forces them to face their lack of originality. He even throws jabs at radio DJs for giving the same content-laden and mediocre songs time on radio airwaves.

BJ The Chicago Kid gives an assist on "Gotta Be More," which features a funky, soul-infused instrumental. Grant stirs his lyrical prowess with cool, collected counsel aimed to shatter a hip-hop culture that thrives on promoting ignorance, violence and drug use.

The rest of the album is a collection of funky-filled radio-friendly songs -- think tracks from the likes of Pharrell and OutKast. On “Get Up,” “Get Down (Poonana)” and “Luxury Vintage Rap,” Grant raps over a kaleidoscope of trap-infused, electro-funk, techno and psychedelic instrumentals, which is a testament to his taste of quality music.

Return of the Cool is a promising effort for Grant. Criticisms are few on this project, but one thing he needs to expand on his personal story; one that comes with experience. Greats like Nas shared his inner-city blues; Jay Z's story of rags-to-riches connected; Kendrick Lamar's tales of peer pressure and trying to steer clear of the dangers of life in Compton resonated. These stories paint a clearer picture of the game's favorite MCs, which Grant should take note of for his next opus. Until then, keeping it cool is working to his benefit.

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