On “Laila’s Wisdom” Rapsody’s smooth flow is paired with excellent production for the perfect antidote to that other hip-hop. Wait; what other hip-hop?
Underground vs. Mainstream
Rapsody’s second studio album belongs to neither camp. To quote the artist, “It’s all Hip Hop, you can’t divide what ain’t different/Don’t like all underground music, I don’t hate all music that isn’t/I was just making it clap to Wacka Flacka last Christmas, Clap!/Clap for a nigga wit her rappin’ ass.” On Genius, Rapsody goes on to say that the divisions are limiting. True to her words, “Laila’s Wisdom is anything but limited.
There are tracks like “Jesus Coming” that sound like the hip-hop of Talib Kweli or Lauryn Hill. There are also tracks that do nothing more than bop like “Chrome.” On the latter Rapsody trades in her so-called “conscious” label and becomes a “turnt-up” rapper. She doesn’t struggle to switch roles. Rapsody effortlessly toggles between styles while delivering thoughtful and hype lyrics.
On “Power” she’s joined by Kendrick Lamar and Lance Skiiiwalker. Lamar is more famous than the other two, but all three blend a unique, personal style with accessible music. With these rappers the dichotomy isn’t underground and mainstream. It might be better to say that they fulfill two simpler criteria: there music is both listenable and good.
Rapsody, however, doesn’t need guest appearances to boost her album. That might be why she chose to absolutely eviscerate the first song on the album. A sampling: “I’m a trip like Grayson Allen/Y’all never made me VALID/I learn that from Phylicia Rashad and Debbie Allen/I’m the other one them another ones screaming like Khaled.”
Woke & Love
Although Rapsody shouldn’t be categorized as a one-dimensional rapper, it would be wrong to not mention the woke lyrics on the album. She has lines throughout the album with just a touch of wokeness. From time to time those sentiments are expanded into whole songs. “Black & Ugly” recalls the famous Notorious BIG line. On that song Rapsody discusses her body image and the most important love of all: self-love.
The album delves into the concept of love, but of course Rapsody knows you can’t love someone else if you don’t love yourself. This is an important lesson for those with a negative self-image. It’s brave, in a world obsessed with (feminine) beauty, for Rapsody to share her personal experiences. She’s capable of writing an album of pure bars of fire but it’s her openness that elevates her music to a special place.
Don’t sleep on the production! The legend 9th Wonder produced almost every track on the album. The few tracks he didn’t have a hand in still fit the profile of the album. That’s the most important part of “Laila’s Wisdom.” From bangers to conscious songs to confessionals, the album is a cohesive piece of work. Rapsody can turn up or down, rap about the streets or her body image or love. She can do all of that without losing the through line of who she is. Laila’s Wisdom seems to be to not lose sight of yourself. It’s great advice and it makes for excellent music.