The Philly rap scene has been popping off ever since Beanie Siegel first hit it big with the Roc. After introducing Freeway and State Property, it seemed anybody who was worth hearing out of Philly had at least one mixtape out. But with the sudden onslaught of street cats and punch-line rappers like Cassidy, everyone seemed to forget that Philly had also produced The Roots and had a thriving rap culture before Beanie Siegel. Granted, even with their signing to Def Jam, The Roots aren't considered popular by any means. Maybe this lack of radio viability explains why the focus on Philly doesn't get past a certain realm of rappers, but regardless of the reason for overlooking anyone who's not packing a gun and a punch-line, it's a shame Philly's hip-hop scene doesn't get fully represented. Ironically, even though I consider myself well versed in quality rap from all regions, Random is cat who had failed to make a dent on my radar before receiving "The Call." My lack of awareness stems not from the quality of Random's work, but from the fact that even in Philly's underworld Random still isn't as well known as he should be.
Random's style isn't easy to pinpoint. He speaks about life in general, which is to say he doesn't spend all his time focused on one thing. You'll get a little of everything, ranging from songs about the state of hip-hop, love, battle raps, the state of urban America, and any other topic that is relevant to someone in Random's shoes. His voice is clear and distinct and his flow is on point. The album's opening verse is great example of what Random's all about as he hits on all topics while keeping his verse relevant:
"Physically, Spiritually, Mentally, Emotionally
Free is what I hope to be, one day
Free from the mediocrity and the gun play
Free from the ignorance, seeking deliverance
Free from afflictions that got my people sickened
Free from the fiction that everybody kicking
Cause I was called to the forefront
By my forefathers who forfeited they rights to the crown for me
But they'd be proud to see
I never fabricated or exaggerated, only facts have been found with me
My goal is preserving the art form's integrity
Never let any fallacies and lies get to me"
He first hits us on the hip-hop side of things with clever word play in the title of "Raze the Bar," where he crafts an anthem for a new school both socially and musically. "Tainted Love" addresses different kinds of love and is broken up into three different parts spread throughout the album. Random even manages to get extra serious by making a heartfelt song addressing hurricane Katrina, among other things, on "I Still Care."
The production on the album is handled by a mixed group of producers, including Random himself, and though they are not household names they hold the boards down. The only big name that shows up on the production credits is 9th Wonder, who produced the first installment of the aforementioned "Tainted Love" and he sticks to his signature style with a smooth guitar sample over a subdued beat. The second installment is equally dope as 2FacedBeats drops a soulful voice sample over a laid back beat. Random handles the board for the third installment of the song and injects more energy into it with a chopped up sample. DN3 also represents well, handling a few tracks, including the dope piano arrangement on the Reef The Lost Cauze assisted "Luminesence."
Overall, Random is a dope emcee who's worthy of getting noticed in Philly and beyond. "The Call" isn't a perfect album, as some tracks aren't as effective as others, but it's a solid album and shows vast potential. Heartfelt tracks like "Salvation," "Don't Let Me Die," and "On My Grind" showcase Random at his best, with honest and raw lyrics addressing serious topics. But even when Random goes for a more accessible sound on tracks like "Blackout" he still manages to drop decent lyrics, though the hook and beat are lacking. Though I was first skeptical when Random declared he got "the call" to rap, at the end of the day it's not hard to believe that this is the truth. He's a natural on the mic and is not afraid to address whatever's on his mind. With a little more polish Random could be the next big thing out of Philly, but even as it stands he's still better than most of the material that's come out of Philly lately.
Music Vibes: 7 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7 of 10
Originally posted: April 11, 2006