These days, Detroit is generally associated with raw lyricism, and it’s not hard to see why. With lyricists like Royce Da 5’9″, Elzhi, Obie Trice and others, it’s almost like The D is stuck in a perpetual state of New York in ’94. Continuing with this trend is Invincible, a femcee who’ll eat most of the rap cats in this game alive.
Invincible sets things off with the ferocious “State of Emergency Intro,” followed by lyrical acrobatics on “Looongawaited,” on which she rhymes: “I’m striving to be one of the best period/Not just one of the best with breasts and a period.” It becomes abundantly clear a few tracks in that Invincible can seriously spit, as it’s almost difficult to keep up with her rhymes sometimes; the really impressive thing is while some emcees can crunch in a million rhymes in a bar and manage to say nothing, she manages to drop a significant amount of knowledge. Whether it’s the constructive criticism of America on “Spacious Skies,” relationships on “No Easy Answers” or making tribute to late Detroit greats Proof and J-Dilla on “In the Mourning,” Invincible covers a dizzying array of topics in an always lucid manner.
While the lyricism on Shapeshifters is consistently excellent, the overall emceeing and production doesn’t always shine. When having a rhyming style so heavy with lyricism, it’s necessary to switch up the flow – something Invincible doesn’t do nearly often enough. As a result the rhymes sometime become grating on some of the less engaging beats, which is Shapeshifters‘ biggest flaw.
The production has a notable lack of balance here in terms of quality – the eerie “Sledgehammer” and the Middle Eastern flavor of “People Not Places” provide stellar musical backdrops, whereas the guitar riffs on “Ransom Note” and the irritating percussion on “Looongawaited” leave much to be desired. As a result, the production is very up-and-down, detracting from album’s cohesion. You’ll find plenty to like here musically, but a fair amount just won’t impress; it’s not that there’s much here that’s bad, just some stuff that’s forgettable. Fortunately, her incredible lyricism and content will let you overlook the album’s shortcomings – most of the time.
For some reason, people always feel the need to compare female emcees to other female emcees. If that’s the case for you, I’ll put it this way – Invincible is far more than Jean Grae than Remy Ma/Lil’ Kim/Foxy Brown, and that’s a very good thing. However, the Detroit emcee manages to craft her own identity and stand out amongst all emcees – female and otherwise – with one of the best releases for ’08.