To speak for the middle majority is something of a premium in Hip Hop. The majority of MCs simply don’t have the tools for the job while others simply choose to ignore ‘life’ altogether. It is relatively easy for any MC to visualise material, monetary and sexual aspirations but only a select few are able to do it with any real depth. To speak for the common man without committing the common mistake of overindulgence and/or rigidity is another skill altogether. As he has come of age in life, Essa has done the same with a microphone in his hand. After his FRMIX series comes the result of that growth, ‘The Misadventures Of A Middleman‘.
The base of Essa’s attraction is the simplicity of his flow. There are those that intrigue and complicate their flow with soliloquies of underhanded governments and camouflaged corridors of power. Essa is an all access MC with an all access agenda and that is this albums constant. Even on a track like the statically charged electro stuttering The World Belongs To You, which sees Essa’s flow speed up dramatically, he doesn’t let that fact escape you.
But having such a flow means that the content of your lyrics are easily scrutinised and is where many of today’s most well known MCs fall short. Essa has no such problems as the aforementioned accessibility is meant in both contexts. Right from the off (The Middle Man) the artist formerly known as Yungun effortlessly details the social outlook, beliefs, hopes and dreams from a mixed-raced perspective and is something that Is returned to in different ways throughout.
With such a enveloping viewpoint at the albums crux the chosen beatsmiths (including Tall Black Guy, Waajeed and Eric Lau) have provided an eclectic assortment of light Boom Bap, Jazz hop, Electro Soul, Afrobeat and Neo Soul that, although well constructed in their own right, also encourage the listeners concentration on what it being said instead of snapping their necks and missing the jewels altogether. Well Spoken’s perfectly manicured take on a classist society could have been easily hidden behind more aggressive tones, but the fact that Misadventures most socially aware song is arguably the easiest listen, is a big nod to how far Essa has come since his Yungun days.
That being said there are many catchy grooves to swing to when the mood takes you. The Afrobeat/Dance stylings of The World Belongs To You and Harder is very easy to move to and definite playlist fodder. Whereas Nothing To Say and the closer, Sorry, carry an unmistakable Nu Jazz vibe (a la Ty) and wouldn’t be out of place among the collection of my beloved 4Hero. But just in case you are getting the impression that Hip Hop is being left behind, Easy and Don’t Speak showcases different facets of todays more traditional Hip Hop trends.
The Misadventures Of A Middleman caters for many tastes but while there are no obvious let downs on show, it does suffer a little because of that. The phrase ‘Jack of all trades master of none’ is an apt one, but don’t let that detract from what is a very sincere, and at times thought provoking album that should be placed a few rungs above many of this years more prevalent releases. A great MC over good beats, as oppose to a great MC over great beats.
‘Misadventures of A Middleman’ is available to stream and purchase via Bandcamp essamusic.bandcamp.com/album/the-misadventures-of-a-middle-man