by Jeff Milo
But MC WarrenPeace (otherwise known as Joe Leibson) strikes an emotional chord with his raps that can't be ignored.
The songs are catchy enough, in fact impressively decorated with soulful/funk-rock samples, sweet grooves and instantaneous beats; the man's voice is an identifiable low-midwest drawl (think a much-less bellicose El-P or not-so-esoteric Aesop Rock) - The rousing drum spills and low buzzy synth-bass of "Who Am I" suture you into the groove, but when WarrenPeace raps, it's much more weighty than most hip/hop fare - not singing about his car, his girl or how much better he is than you -
"...this life's just a rung in the latter," he muses, right after assuring he wouldn't trade his life for Jay-Z's, indeed, Leibson's fulfillment comes from his wife and kid, but also, his peace of mind, from speaking sincerely and living simply, with rap songs getting him through all the other distractions.
And yet, not preachy, in fact, still endearing. - Yes, he gets philosophic with that life-wrung-in-the-latter-line, but brings it back quickly, following with "front to the rear, get your damn hands up in the air..."
His EP, From Detroit to Darabougou -comes out on this Friday.
" But back to that "Latte" jam - my personal favorite. That's the one that strikes a chord - struck my chord, at least. Considering I'm writing some of this review from a coffee shop - a track like this, dazzled with its Axel Foley-theme -sounding synth hooks atop a funky, burly bass groove - it stirs my compassion, concern and curiosity for where the coffee beans ground to pour my cup came from and whether the farmers were fairly compensated for their work... Extended from that, the song questions, how many others throughout society, are denied their fair shake?
Indeed, Leibson is a consciousness stirring rapper - call him political if you will (he made an album with a group called The Freematics back in 08 that was also heavy on the politics), but the sweeping, playful punch of "Latte"'s chorus carries much more weight when he sings (ostensibly to his barista or to Mr. Coffee) to "wake this body up!" Not so much confrontational, but heavily contemplative - maintaining not just a worldly awareness, but a personal perspective.
Wake up... "Tryin to make it better," so goes the soulful croon of Brandon Woodson's cameo on the dazzling synth-dotted gospel-y ballad "When I'm Gone..."
The Plymouth-set MC releases his EP Nov 25th at Diablo's in Royal Oak. He'll be joined by his producer Eddie Logix via his collaboration with D. Allie - Progress Report. Fellow MC (and fellow Logix collaborator), Benjamin Miles is also on the bill, along with The Definition.