While Rhymesayers has proven to be one of the top flight indie labels to peak over the last decade, their best kept secret I Self Devine has gone relatively unnoticed during this crowning achievement. The Los Angeles-born, Minneapolis-bred rapper released his solo debut Self Destruction in 2005, and with it came an artist channeling an untapped potential that disappeared with a seven year hiatus from the limelight. Now back in music mode, Devine offers up his latest effort The Sound Of Low Class Amerika.
Fueled by his disdain for today’s societal ills within America, the album’s blunt stance strikes like a hammer, with tracks like the Brother Ali-assisted “Living Under Siege” and “Conditioned” giving listeners a taste of the hypocrisy that is occurring. Not one to hold his tongue, “Power” sends shots at oppressive organizations that have used their authority unjustly, letting them know their reign is over. Things hit a high point on “Cold Anger,” a record that finds I Self Devine in his element:
“If you protest, you a terrorist / If you want justice, you’s a militant / If you proud of your people you a racist / Unpatriotic, no faith regardless / At war, inner turmoil / Conflict coding, tension boil / Police state, search and seize / No p-c, its eroding freedom / Note to the banks, your accounts is freezing / ‘Cause you criticize how your country’s scheming / Opening your mail and your email, all in your details / No privacy what I see now / The new enemy is anyone who wants control of their destiny / Just ignorant shit, off my penmanship / Get stripped of my citizenship / Fuck it.”
The biggest gripe with The Sound Of Low Class Amerika – and it’s one that will rarely be described in Hip Hop today – is that its cerebral content becomes overtly disparaging at times. Realistically, knowledgeable heads can come to terms with the issues that plague our current society and see to it that they don’t participate in its destruction. However, Devine’s incessant railing makes you believe there’s no end in sight, a pessimistic view that can be daunting to get through. Also, aside from the album-ending eight-minute memoir “Self Awareness,” we learn little about what the man born Chaka Mkali has been up to since Self Destruction. In that regard, Devine becomes this poetic martyr rallying for action, yet his presence behind the scenes of this rebellious march is never actually illustrated.
The Sound Of Low Class Amerika is honest, radical music with a purpose that will keep the listener's mind in fifth gear. Even more so, it’s a refreshing break from the usual talk of stacking paper and bedding the baddest bitches. I Self Devine once again shows he has the skills to match his counterparts over at Rhymesayers. Making this a consistent theme is his next test.