Thursday, March 20, 2014

Raz Simone - Cognitive Dissonance (Review and Free Download)

If you want a glimpse into another human being’s soul, Cognitive Dissonance is for you.

In a world where describing someone as “real” has dwindled down to meaningless, hyperbolic cliché, I don’t want to use that word to describe Raz Simone. The word I’m looking for is honest. Raz Simone is honest. If you weren’t familiar with Simone’s music before this offering, it is clear to see that he is honest on the opening track (and of course throughout the album), “They’ll Speak.” This track is more than a few years old, as I recall first hearing it sometime back in 2009. I probably added to a good 1,000 of the plays on the original video’s YouTube page. Sadly, the original video has since been removed from YouTube, but I was happy to see it included in “Cognitive Dissonance.”

“I can’t lie there’s some days I’m more of a pimp,” Simone offers on the second track, “8 Rangs.” Throughout the track, Simone admits on the chorus that he often lets his phone “rang, rang.” The strings in the beat are intoxicating. The vocal sample which appears to be snippets of monks chanting some mantra’s is a nice touch to the background music, with Simone flexing his skills unapologetically, giving a nice balance to the feel of the album from the heavy, lyrically fueled “They’ll Speak,” on the first track.

“Natural Resources” displays a soulful, funky beat. I imagine the bass line would be perfect for riding through the city with a subwoofer in the trunk. There’s a muffled horn sound appearing and disappearing throughout the song. The piano is crisp. But it is clear that the bass line is the main course, with everything else playing supporting roles, side dishes. Simone laments: “We all turn to some higher power at that last hour, hopefully out of love, not because you’re a scared coward.” Just before he quips rather sarcastically about mainstream Christianity’s views on gay people going to hell. This comes just after he addresses the reason he no longer considers himself a Christian: he can’t tell the difference between people who have faith, but may be ascribed a different label than “Christian.”

By this point in the album, it is clear that Raz Simone is versatile. His cadence on “They’ll Speak” is very immediate. And it’s a lot to take in all in one track. He then transitions to a more relaxed delivery on the following few tracks. On “Bow Down,” he is more in your face, less conversational. The hooks throughout the album are exactly that: they draw you in. They are easily memorized, while his lyrics require much more dexterity and contemplation to delve into.

The album’s title is quite fitting as well. It is quite clear this is a young man who wants to do his best. He’s swiveling between his past life and what he sees for his future. Cognitive dissonance alludes to conflict. The conflict of holding two points of view, ideas, beliefs that may appear on the surface to be contradictions but might also be an ability to accept the world as it is, and mold your own mind, belief and worldview. No doubt every thinking person to ever breathe has encountered cognitive dissonance. For Simone, it appears to be teetering between the street life, its ups and downs, and walking the spiritual path, with its ups and downs as well. This is displayed quite ingeniously in the hook for “Don’t Shine,” where Simone admits: “Where I’m from, when the clouds come out, then the sun don’t shine round here; need your love, your touch, a shelter from the rain.” And this can easily be interpreted as a metaphor. But it could also explain most of the year in Seattle, where it rains all the fucking time.

All in all this is a quality release. I’m going to say it is the best album to come out this year so far. But I am confident that it will stand the test of time. It will age well. One of my favorite parts of this album is also one of the most subtle attributes: the transitions from song to song. Those on Cognitive Dissonance reminds me of those found on The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Simone is just talking. He’s adding depth to the coming track. He’s allowing time with the listener where he doesn't have to be rapping, but just speaking honestly from his heart. On “8 Rangs,” he says “I always told myself I would rather die than kill, but when that situation occurs in reality, it’s not so easy.” And on “Thirsty,” Simone begins, “It’s always the best feeling coming back, gracefully falling slowly through the sunshine then finally breaking through the thick clouds…” which he is maybe not so obviously speaking about when he’s in an airplane descending upon his home town, which also happens to be the title of the next track.

I do have a couple complaints about this album. First, on “Hometown,” the title is deceiving. Although it is a dope track, one of my favorites on the album, it isn't exactly about his hometown. It seems to be more about his past relationships and dead-end women he’s met in his life. Simone describes briefly his relationship with the mother of his child. Even in the opening bars, he says “so crazy bitch don’t talk to me.” This is all fine, but the title is a bit deceiving. Next, I feel like the album should have started with “Still Mobbin’” and ended with “They’ll Speak.” It is my humble opinion of course, but “They’ll Speak” just feels like more of a concluding track. But yo, don’t take my word for it, this is a free download, so see for yourself!

Some highlights:

“In my hometown I get fuckin' respect, cuz it’s not who does it the first, it’s who does it the best”

"From slavery to crack babies, to the money that they makin' from us in cages, its amazing how the government can sell a lie"

“Signing six figure checks but ain't a thang changed.”

 “God was in me, how could you say He wasn't me?”

“You walked out the door and let the cold in, and now you’re mad cuz I closed it”

“I have a huge heart, but what’s left in it? The mother of my child won’t let me see my lil man"

“I say all that to recognize a contrast, seein’ where you see a nigga at, in comparison to where I’m from, me and my niggas comin’ from the bottom and the back”

The Kanye West sample on “Natural Resources”

To download Raz Simone's Cognitive Dissonance for FREE, click here.

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