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Wordsmith: King Noah

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Wordsmith

King Noah

NU Revolution Entertainment

ONCE UPON A TIME, rappers like Baltimore MC Wordsmith—labeled indie, conscious, or backpacker—dotted the mainstream hip-hop landscape like conscientious objectors, avoiding the violence, self-hate, and misogyny upon which so many radio MCs built their empires. Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Common, and the Roots even busted through on occasion, reminding their hit-making brothers that another world was possible. But these days, conscious MCs have either dulled their creative swords to reach broader audiences or faded into the woodwork. Enter King Noah, the fourth LP from Wordsmith, a creative explosion in the form of a musical treatise to newborn son Kingston Noah. Released the week of Father’s Day, the album includes lessons about ambition (“On My Job”), exploring the world (“Globetrotters”), and letting go of hate (“Grudges and Growing Pains”), all backed by up-tempo, often piano-driven tracks produced by the likes of Centric, Benny Rome, and DJ Eclipse. When Wordsmith, vocally a dead ringer for Kweli, raps earnest double-time rhymes like, “Only peace and love can be the centerpiece/ Then at least we show the world that life can be sweet” on the title track, those weaned on Waka Flocka Flame and Curren$y mixtapes are tempted to dismiss him as corny—especially when it veers to the evangelical—but the deep personal passion and vocal dexterity are hard to deny. The MC, who owns his label, isn’t likely to see the broad breakthrough he hopes for, at least lyrically (“This is a revolution in music right now/ All that garbage that’s out there is about to be abolished”), but, like artistic standard-bearers in every generation, he’s keeping the torch alight so someone, someday might. And, in the meantime, Kingston Noah has a hell of an audio blueprint to live by.

Wordsmith has his CD release party at sonar june 22. Doors open at 8 p.m. $15, $10 Advance.

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