RhapsodE - Spoke Inward
by Jon Minners
Watching American Idol on television, one is treated to various styles of music, but with one intention in mind…to find mainstream’s version of an American Idol – basically an artificial pop star who will act like a robot and spit out the same tired types of songs people have become bored with despite industry standards suggesting otherwise.
RhapsodE is the kind of musician whose music gets played on the radio leading to those who have grown tired of Paris Hilton’s manufactured voice to say, “Whoa…what a breath of fresh air.” Of course, the problem is, talent like RhapsodE doesn’t get played on the radio – they become gems music lovers must uncover. Thank God for Myspace.
Myspace has changed the way people listen to music, providing unsigned talent with a true opportunity to shine, sell their music and gain a loyal following. Discovering RhapsodE allowed listeners to sample her songs and then, when they have whet their appetite, purchase her CD and truly become immersed in some of the most refreshing music that music lovers have not heard since the days of Lady Bug and Diggable Planets.
RhapsodE first started to make a name for herself on the Minnesota scene, traveling around the Twin Cities, finding all possible venues to share her vision. Open mic nights allowed her to perform a unique style of jazz, soul, R&B…sort of like rap, but in a spoken word format. Within a year of taking stage RhapsodE was nominated for a 2003 Minnesota Music Award in the Spoken Word category along with local veteran spoken word artists.
The poet, with a degree in African American Studies, has since moved on to Philadelphia where she is currently making her name at local venues, promoting a CD of 14 delectably different songs and one remix that you won’t mind repeating.
Instantly, listeners are not only drawn into a new style of music, but taken back by the depth the artist conveys. M.E. National Bank focuses on the similarities between the financial institution and love. The strong message for women and the stern warning to men looks rather difficult to have put together, but RhapsodE makes it flow so effortlessly.
"Ladies!/We've been out here giving love on credit/men out there forever indebted/to the love we gave/love that was made.../and as the relationship goes on/we start to take notice/that all the lovin' we've been bankin' on/has never flourished.../interest accumulates as we go on more dates/he makes an initial deposit so throughout we/can draw from it/but after awhile we balance our books/'cause after all the lovin' (on credit)/things don't seem as smooth as they look."
Her message continues to the men in what would come off as a battle rap if it didn’t sound so sensual, playful and sincere.
"We'll need to see two forms of ID and your portfolio/you know.../so we can see where you've invested your joy/I mean, what are we to think about your stock in u/while you still hold shares in Playboy?/so for all these I suggest you read the fine print/for failure to abide will result in your business being.../dismissed..."
I believe the message behind the song, Black Love, is not what it takes to love a black woman, but about the struggles black people have faced throughout the centuries and how one must love the skin they are in to never give up, dream of a better tomorrow and fight to make those dreams a reality.
RhapsodE changes the style, speed and inflection of her voice to suit the song she is performing, whether it is the quick style slam rapping behind the beat box sound in Admit or the heartfelt warmth in the song about her mother, She; or during the Birth of Hip Hop where the artist channels the sexiest vibe of a poet with a truly orgasmic sound you can almost hear whispering in your ear after she has completed her song.
"If you could make beats/like my rhythm/And that rhythm/We make love/Bodies make heat/create beat/And boy if you make beats/like we make love/we can make sweet…sweet poetry/like you and me."
But there is more to RhapsodE than sex appeal, made evident in the songs Damn (Part 1) and Damn (Part 2), which slowly lead into the idea of interracial romance before discussing it in detail; the struggles of loving someone of the opposite sex and what it means to be a black woman in love with a white man, all done to a unique dance beat with RhapsodE’s voice and word flow never missing a step.
Perhaps the best song on the track brings this review full circle, as RhapsodE attacks the mainstream market in Wait. She asks what happened to the music. "Things done changed/music done changed/We’re all rearranged/We don’t move the same/the room got smaller/the charge got taller."
In Wait, she goes on to discuss how the public has been “digitalized, commercialized and marginalized, as companies off free music downloads to erase the definition of good music from our memories.” And she does this, first to music and then, when the beat drops, she keeps going until she completes the very relevant and strong message.
With no beat in the background to distract, maybe someone will listen to the words for once. With RhapsodE, every word has meaning.