The temperature gets cold in T.Dot, just like the beats and rhymes.
From Marco Polo to MoSS, Kardinal Offishall to k-os to Eternia to everyone in between — Toronto continues to cultivate artists, producers and aficionados who put a premium on the sound of quintessential, golden era Hip Hop.
Emcee/Producer duo Eternia and MoSS’s Fat Beats Records release, At Last, fits right in with the city’s rich tradition. E flexes her extensive mic skills straight out the gate, opening with four rugged cypher cuts in a row. Her vocals spill confidence, ripping through “Any Man” and “32 Bars” as if she’s on a mission to extinguish any stereotype ever placed upon white and/or female rappers, kicking lines like “I bet you / Only see one thing when you see me / I love it / Y’all stupid for that / You make it easy” and “Tell me that I’m too late / Too wordy / Too white / Tell me what you want / The world tells me that I’m too nice” (respectively) over MoSS’s basement ready boom-bap soundscape. Lead single “BBQ” feels refreshingly nostalgic, as golden era lyrical titans Rah Digga and The Lady of Rage join Eternia in decimating the high-powered, eighty-miles-an-hour backdrop. Digga’s nimble flow and scathing summation of the dwindling presence of women Emcees — “Chicks are a hot mess / Fergie all we got left / Sad story / Even the awards done dropped the category / These rap bitches corny” — shines brightest of the three.
Proof positive of Eternia’s Emcee skills occurs on the Joell Ortiz-assisted “It’s Funny”. After Joell bodies MoSS’s scratch-heavy beat with “And the broads y’all stress / I done had mami nude / And I was butt-ass myself so we meshed like Dr. Goo / And the rest is a given / Nah, fuck that, I’ma tell you, man / Her neck was in rhythm then we sexed in the kitchen / Tryna tell you that’s what you get when you’re fresh with you’re spittin / So in New York or not, I’m still next to a pigeon,” E shuts it down with:
“Your bitch ain’t as nice as me / That’s ’cause I ain’t a bitch / I’m the grown woman that bitches aspire to be / That cats try to see on the low / They tell their chicks that they’re going to check a show but it’s me that they’re checking for / And they tell me that they don’t want the wife / They want a life with a rapper chick / Grass in greener shit / That’s why I’m celibate…I roll with one army / That’s me, you can’t harm me / Or what I live for / God, music and family / All three out of reach bitch please understand me / I’m untouchable so don’t be Sean Connery / Pops was a gangster / Mother was God’s property / That makes me sort of something special like an Odyssey…”
Not only does Eternia immediately separate herself from the stereotypical idea that women in Hip Hop or otherwise are worth little more than getting “sexed in the kitchen,” but she highlights the omnipresent undertones of At Last as a whole: God, music, and family.
E can rhyme with the best (and considering guest appearances by Rah Digga, Rage, Joell Ortiz, Termanology and Reef The Lost Cauze on “At Last,” Canada’s finest, Tona and the legendary Maestro Fresh Wes on “A Day In The Life” — she’s surrounded by serious lyricists), but weighty confessions of a disjointed family life (“The Half”), daddy issues and empathy in the midst of sexual molestation (“Pass That”, “To The Future”), heartbreak (“Played Out” featuring sister, Jessica Kaya), alcoholic tendencies (“Dear Mr. Bacardi) and an enduring faith (“To The Past”) on consecutive songs is what lingers long after the album ends.
In spite of her aggressive, in-your-grill delivery on potent cypher cuts, Eternia’s tortured past and ability to connect through honest, visceral rhymes is At Last’s truest legacy. She harnesses her femininity without ever pimping her sexuality. Her lyrical bravado (“I came up out a woman stronger than your whole crew / Do the math / My left half can outdo you”) is balanced by her gut-wrenching vulnerability (“Memories my mind conveniently erases / Strange homes, alone / Got touched in strange places”).
Apart from the hit and miss sequence of songs at the end of the album, (“A Day In The Life” and “Catch Me” hit, “At Last” and “Goodbye” feel more like filler than substantive additions), and consistently better-than-average yet short-of-jaw-dropping production throughout — the combination of which jeopardizes overall replay value — Eternia and MoSS assembled an emotionally rich boom-bap tapestry, trading gaudy depictions of glamour and glitz for honesty and truth to wax expressions of reality. “We’re not stars, we’re people / We’re not like you / We’re better / You’re not equal” raps Eternia on closer, “Goodbye,” aptly summing up At Last’s duality: one part lyrical exercise, one part real life.