A stain on the shared Hip Hop experience has been the glass ceiling placed above musical creativity, as artists who break free of already set molds are generally overlooked and almost discarded altogether. The West Coast’s underground scene has maintained an exhausting fight for recognition, perceived as unorthodox in juxtaposition with pioneers of California’s formerly ubiquitous Gangsta Rap. A most notably thriving symbol of this battle has been the Bay Area’s Hieroglyphics crew, who have played a salient role in branding a distinct sound centered around off kilter flows and layman rhymes for nearly two decades. Pep Love is but one of Hiero’s socially aware unit, hoping to further their consistently progressive legacy with his latest release Rigmarole.
Where Pep Love’s aptly titled 2001 LP Ascension was designed to uplift, Rigmarole exchanges its positive messages with a dose of stark reality. The album finds him to be a B-boy documentarian of sorts, still inspiring motivation through relating his parables to the ongoing living condition of commoners. Pep’s approach to rap pulls no punches as his passion for life commands attention on “Top O’ The Mornin'” and “Everywhere,” songs focused on the dedicated blue collar fiber of his being. Likewise, he demonstrates a lesser heard concern for the world’s strife on “Cloudy Days” and “I Know This Pain,” bringing his healing ethos full circle.
Rigmarole‘s weakness stems from a longwinded monotony, as the album lags at points and the core of Pep Love’s vocal delivery is an acquired taste, often boosted by the strength of the album’s production. Long-term devotees stand a greater chance of being thrilled than first time listeners who may consider the emcee a hard sell, despite his respectable merits of holding true to Hip Hop’s authentic cultural mores without dumbing down.