Any emcees whom can’t claim OG Bobby Johnson veteran status in the game are immediately slotted into one of the three great quadrants of Hip Hop. There is the introspective and socially conscious emcee, the former street-gangster turned rapper who despite their discography, is “not a rapper.” And rounding things out is the rapper who can’t spit worth a damn but is sure good at party jams. The undefinables are subjected to the overused, deplorable threshold of sounding like “a breath of fresh air.”
Like a phoenix rising out of trappings of bandcamp obscurity, Wara From The NBHD has amassed substantial viral prestige in recent months, a necessary cog in the path to Hip Hop notoriety in the Digital Age. But Wara has used his keyboard not only for swift public relations moves, but also composing as well. He has honed his production abilities, due in large part to inspiration from a Pharrell circa Neptunes and pre-Ugg boots and buffalo hats era.
Kidnapped is a compelling sonic undertaking from start to finish. Peppered by jazzy piano strokes, “Get In (Intro)” is scarce in bars but works more as a thematic signifier rather than a standalone track. Wara is daring his listeners to buy the ticket and take the ride. What follows are consistently high-caliber moments accentuated by vacillating movements in content as well as symphonic structure. But despite “Get In (Intro),” Wara’s instrumentals are more than capable of straying away from the manicured mellow, and the added advantage of an emcee who functions as producer is the inherent chemistry element. Rappers are prone to shelling out major dough on big-name producers for insta-hits but the end result is often times a botched meeting ground of juxtaposing styles, the merits solely attributed to the starry names on the liner notes. On Kidnapped, the instrumentals compliment the rhymes in an organic manner that bears plenty of savory fruit. It also leads to calculated risks, as “Slangin,” which sounds like something 50 Cent would get busy to circa 2003.
Rap aficionados will instantly recognize how “Beige” flips the smooth drum kick in Jay Z’s Pharrell-produced “I Know.” But Wara turns Jay’s hot sample into a hot song; one defined by an introspective inroad into the stressors and struggles of Wara’s life. One gets the feel Wara is maturing before our eyes in real-time with only two albums on his resume. “Raw” clicks because of its adherence to totality. When he spots the finish line, Wara doesn’t decelerate. Like a Just Blaze, Dilla, or Tribe, Wara’s instrumentals are not the product of repetitive loops, as he is liable to incorporate minuscule but engaging sonic overtures in the waning minutes, like the horn section that creeps in at the end—experiments in Free-Jazz with a Hip Hop flavor. Wara’s determination to avoid the skip button at all costs makes Kidnapped one of those records that can be enjoyed all the way through.
But Wara makes it clear it’s not just beats with him, as there’s no shortage on rhymes and life as well. Besides the lyrics-deprived piano flourish of “Go In (Intro)” Wara supplies Kidnapped with a myriad of witty bars and relatable real-talk. In pristine beast mode moments, Wara wisely opts for more minamilist production and lets his bars shine. “Hot Boy” is dedicated an anonymous love interest anchored by a funky guitar riff, but the rhymes are more than usual thot-talk. “Fuck You Mean/Composure” ups the momentum lyrically, (“The coffee brewed into a fucking mean mug / Put on a fake smile like a magazine cover”).
Like Kanye in his College Dropout days, many of Wara’s bars are coated in the same everyman trials and tribulations mentality that function as a roadblock for an ambitious young man anxious to realize his dreams. Even a song like “Scrilla,” which on the surface seems to promise a sparkplug of new energy with overt synths, dynamic baseline and hustler sermons, Wara treks back the-struggle-is-real talk. At times he exemplifies the cocky swagger of Jay Z on Reasonable Doubt, but his overarching theme seems to rhetorically ask, “Can I live?” By the looks of things, Wara’s career arc will adhere to the war-like mentality of his namesake, and if he keeps his tenacity while steadily improving his craft, he will undoubtedly be more than just an Internet sensation in the future.