Around the late ’90s, word on the street was that you had to see Joel “Da Fluent” Greene in action to believe how magnetic his personality was. At the time, he was the host of Café Mahogany’s legendary open-mic poetry night. He was the “finger snaps, toe taps and dap” man who made every poet feel like Amiri freakin’ Baraka, no matter how bad or good they were.
But hosting was never Fluent’s true calling. The man is an emcee. Correct that. He’s a rhyming-ass muhfucka who oozes a vet’s personality and an admirable lack of inhibition. And this debut disc is raw, basement hip hop. It’s a dark, if not brilliant, ode to Detroit (“Blowed”), a forced look at his own life and love (“Lauren Nicole,” “Untitled”) and a melancholic pep rally (“Life Goes On …”).
A critic could zero in on the album’s lack of technical precision, mastering or vocal inflection. A critic, however, should go back to 1993 first; Wu-Tang Clan, remember? That technically imperfect debut, Enter the 36 Chambers, was, history has taught us, a classic. Fluent’s joint may not be an archetype, but it has not left the CD deck, and won’t, for weeks.
Wait, I like this part: “Detroit’s such a beautiful city, but the streets of my city don’t play … and don’t get blowed the fuck awaaaayyyy.”
Khary Kimani Turner writes about music for Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.