Last year seen some pretty incredibly amazing dope Hip-Hop albums released and Chicago emcee, writer and youth mentor, Add-2, put out by far the best body of work with, Jim Crow: The Musical. A very timely and socially conscious concept album that’s not only the best Hip-Hop album of 2019, but one of the best albums of 2019 across music period. Not to mention one of the top albums of the past decade.
The subject matter on the album, which is narrated by world-renowned American actor, Kadeem Hardison, who plays Yoanne Cesters, throughout the 19-track, 57-minutes audio adventure is brought about in such a theatrical way that’s actually divided into four parts like a play. Which hasn’t really been matched or done in a similar since Kendrick Lamar’s classic, To Pimp a Butterfly. Where you have to really be locked in to catch every little bar, lyric and note, Add touches on for listeners about subjects relevant to Black people in America, both now in the present, as well as in the past. That unfortunately in a lot of ways, even despite the advancements made, are still in a lot of ways similar to the past. Which we can hopefully grow into even better advancements in the future.
Something you can hear from Hardison’s very poignant narration on the intro track, Welcome to Jim Crow. Which lets you know you’re in for a real world-wind pushing the envelope ride and you can hear from the very socially conscious track, The Secret Life of Blacks. That sees Add spitting such poignant real lyrics as, “Life is but a song, trying to sing along. Nana called, told me God called my Auntie home. Pouring liquor, see the streets is like a alcoholic. Calling women h**s till we end up having daughters. I guess they call it karma.” The very soulful horn trumpets and piano chords of the Jadah Arrington-produced track, as well as the soulful chorus from Koku Gonza, really truly bringing the very socially conscious lyrics even more to life. That then perfectly seguing into the very hard-hitting, Git Your Hand Out My Pocket. Which has the emcee letting you know, he “did not come here to play games.” Spitting plenty of memorable lyrically sharp lines and lyrics throughout the powerful choir sampled Sirplus-produced track that has Add sounding as hungry as ever. While also showing why he’s not only arguably heads and shoulders above the rest as the greatest emcee and lyricists in Chicago, but one of the illest emcees and lyricists in all of Hip-Hop right now.
Add truly shows his care as a respected voice of clarity among the culture and to uplift people of color on such tracks as, 3 Fifs, Young N***as (Maintain) and Souls 4 Sale (Soul’d Out). With 3 Fifs, which features Amanda Accapella Dunnavant, as one of the most prime examples. As Add delivers some of the most honest and potent bars about the Black plot in America, which you can hear hit even more in his very emotional delivery/flow. With lyrics such as, “I ask myself how you deal with this? White folks acting mad. They see us kneeling. Not them killing us. How real is this? Can’t stand it when you standing on your own two. Acting like they own you. Francis Scott Keys owns slaves and Jerry Jones too.” The very soulful and jazzy backdrop of the Neak-produced, Young N***as (Maintain), having the Chicago emcee spitting lyrics on how the street life most of them grew up watching their family and friends in, helped them in the end to maintain a better lifestyle and life. While the soulfully brilliantly sampled, Souls 4 Sale (Soul’d Out), is about the evil and deceitful things you’re promised to be famous for as an entertainer, if you “sale your soul.” Quite ironically the latter two also being apart of Act II in the four acts throughout the album.
The brilliantly well-placed skits, as well as informative narrative skits at the beginning and/or end of several tracks throughout the album. Really helping bring the very theatrical like feel that makes the very socially conscious and informative lyrics on the current Black plight of America even more to life. But probably none more effective than Phonte of Little Brother reciting a well-known James Baldwin quote to introduce, Back in the Day, which also features fellow Chicago natives Oliv Blu and Brittney Carter. A very soulfully refreshing Disrupt-produced track that even despite the very personally touching lyrics from Add about wanting to be a kid again because I his, “family tree being uprooted by Uncle Sam.” Finds Carter stealing the show with no only some of the best guest verses, but among the best verses you will have possibly heard in all of 2019. With such standout lyrics/poetry as, “The spirit came and told me, let’s go higher. Thought you’ve the high before. While this platform a little flyer. Sacrifice and elevation. That there go hand-in-hand, when you take the easy route. You sabotage the masters plan. Don’t give in to weakness. Together we can be this. When they look at you, they see a Queen that’s never been defeated.” The, Mama Said Skit, also a perfect example of how it perfectly sets up the very refreshing choir sampled, Fear of God. Where Add really goes off and snaps.
Another strong point of the album is how Add is able to spit and offer life lessons on such various topics as black love/marriage and staying alive. Which he’s really able to do on Act III of the album, when the Chicago emcee is really able to show his versatility on such beautiful standout tracks as the Slot-A-produced, Jump the Broom featuring Andy Allo. Where he rhymes about black love/marriage and how he wants his wife to be like his “own Lauren London” and the type of soul mate she was to the late great Nipsey Hu$$le. While the very potent, Hashtag, that finds Add rapping about trying to stay alive to not become a, “hashtag.” Is easily not only the best track on the album, but one of the best you will ever hear with how it really hits home for so many reading stories – in almost real-time – about people of color being murdered by police with little to no consequences. Even condemned by politicians and vilified almost constantly in the media.
Add’s ability to really uplift people of color and especially the black women and their natural hair is shown on tracks like, Nappy Hair. A very beautiful record that features the very jazzy Sam Trump sax playing and the beautiful poetic lace colored rhymes from special guest features Elisa Latrice and K. Love, that would make India.Arie and Corinne Bailey Rae proud. As well as tempt any man to maintain that type of love for their woman in that naturally beautiful and what should be more appreciated light. While the raw straight up emceeing that shows Add going off on very energetic and hype tracks like the WdotILL featured, Homecoming (They Ain’t Ready). Which is really taken to the next level with the very triumphant trumpet playing from T.L. Williams on the Slot-A-produced track. That shows his ability to really go off on just about any instrumental and that at the heart of everything, he’s a true to the core emcee and lyricists.
The closing three tracks aka Act IV, of; Willie Gets Lynched, Wings (Please Don’t Leave) and Soul Searching, are some of the most powerful and informative of the album too. The, Point of Realization and Natalie Oliveri very soulful choruses on Wings and Soul Searching, really helping bring those soulfully amazing and informative tracks even more to life. Especially the very intelligent and authentically socially conscious raw lyrics that Add spits on, Soul Searching, that perfectly closes out such a truly masterful album. That’s not only easily the best Hip-Hop album of 2019, but one of the best albums across all of music for the past year and decade.