label: khalifa

producers: conley 'conman' abrams

guests: e black, don stryke, izrael, demac, cynthia denise farmer, mryiam 'lo' mateus.
year of release: 2001
website: mp3.com/ithaka
rating
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tracklisting
1. So You're Going There
2. What U Gotta Do w/ E Black, Don Stryke
3. My Mind & My Body
4. Dugout Canoe
5. Snakes In The Rafters
6. Three Shots
7. Rana Linda (I Can Make A Difference) w/ Izrael, Demac
8. Mr. Mosquito
9. Ugly American
10. Dear Hillary
11. Black Rock
12. Lapis Lazuli w/ Izrael, Demac
13. Visit With Nagawa
14. Upendo
15. River Road
16. Nawaga's Revenge
17. Endless Bummer w/ Mryiam 'Lo' Mateus
18. Mwajuma w/ Cynthia Denise Farmer
19. My Mind & My Body Reprise

 

Somewhere South Of Somalia

There are many things one could criticize about hip hop. And what to one is worth of criticism is what the other actually appreciates. So when we write here, that hip hop is lacking concepts that run through the whole album, that are keeping an album together and make it distinguishable as such, then others will disagree and say, they just want a couple of tracks that keep their head nodding. And when we state that hip hop has the potential to reach a lot of people on deep and important levels, then other people will go, that hip hop is coming from the streets and should be made for the streets, and a deeper meaning would neatly fit somewhere dark, and somewhere where we usually sit on.

Whatever the case, Ithaka was not content with just putting a couple of tracks together, put 'em on a disc, call it an album and call it a day. When he was travelling Kenya and Tanzania, it inspired him. Inspired him to write about escapism, write about what he saw in those place, with his eyes, but also what his soul saw in the presence of other people's experiences, lives and struggles. Or how he calls it: "live it, write about it, rap about it". Hence this is one of the cases where a rap record is using its potential; talking to people and to bring a story across, easier and better, than any other genre of music is able to. And hence "Somewhere South Of Somalia" is deserving our props, as the courageous record it is, that's dwelling into the depth of something, that comes as close to travel journal as it can get.

And for this project, Ithaka teamed up with producer Conley 'Conman' Abrams, who's responsible for all the beats that back Ithaka up, who in his travels takes us into the trapped lands of tribal folklore, elitists foreigners or epidemics, collecting them in a musical ethnographic report. That starts out with Ithaka going into areas where the question is a unbelieving "So You're Going There?" commenting his plans. The reason why it is necessary to step out the regular shackles of society is expressed on "What U Gotta Do", before the physical travel to Africa is just as much a mental and psychical adaptation, what is dizzyingly shown by "My Mind & My Body". With "Snakes In The Rafter" the finish line of the first leg is reached, with us then meeting up with "Rana Linda (I Can Make A Difference)" who is a war photographer. This track features Izrael, of Cell-mob, who's handling the sung chorus. "Ugly American" is the next meeting with someone, this track portraying one of the still imperialistic thinking people, taking away all what's still good, untouched an innocent in this area. However, things catch up to him, what you can hear on "Dear Hillary". More anthropological topics are discussed on "Black Rock", before "Lapis Lazuli" is kept spoken word, with Izrael returning for the chorus.

Moving on to the tribal religions, "Visit With Nagawa" is once more having us meet a native, this time a suspect person that knows about spells. Entering a language course, "Upendo" is having us listen to Swahili, with Cassande Luchembe whispering the words in our excited ears. Then the streets are explored on "River Road", as we hear that some of the unwanted adventures can be rather similar there to here. Keeping the story progressing, "Nawaga's Revenge" is talking about the symptoms of Malaria. The last person we then meet is "Nwajuma", before our mind is again drifting off into "My Mind & My Body Reprise", as it's trying to take in, process and understand all what was experienced on this album.

With us now knowing what travel we are accompanying, it's interesting what kind of beats are coming along too. They are often on some unlocated style, that is keeping things in vibes of years ago. That can then sound 'heard before' like on "Dugout Canoe", or rather progressive like "Visit With Nagawa". It's also having some elements, that remind us of world music, of reggae, of Caribbean sounds, of African styles. Hence we are needing a decent amount of tolerance to get with it.

What then makes it necessary to talk about the album in a more regular kind of way: this album is on the beat tip not the strongest, and lyrically, the nomadic wanderer Ithaka (aka visual artist and writer Ithaka Darin Pappas) is not the most skilled as well, as much of his eloquence is getting lost, with the story being forced into rhyming patterns. But that's merely unfortunate, as the goal of this record can never be to reach an audience that just wants a good time pumping something to bob the head, or keeping the music low like in an elevator. That'd be unfair to the record, and that needs to taken into consideration. Hence what makes this record good is the patience and respect for a misunderstood continent, that's telling the story, and that is making this album a narrated book. Hence this gets a lot of respect from our side, a lot of props for the willingness to do something hard and exhausting, that will never get as much acclaim as it actually deserves.

review: tadah

2000 - 2012.08 by urban smarts | contact