We’re not yet to the point where race doesn’t matter in hip-hop, but we’re closer than we’ve ever been. Lil Wyte aside - and frankly, that’s his own damn fault - whiteness is no longer the lead story when discussing rappers like Eminem, Yelawolf, etc. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of gender. In fact, if anything, we’re moving backwards when it comes to women in hip-hop. The early ‘90s saw Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Salt ‘N Pepa and a cadre of empowered female emcees on the top of the charts, but in 2010, if …
DJBooth Album Review
Of course dope female rappers didn’t go extinct, they just moved away from the spotlight – or more accurately, the spotlight moved away from them. But it feels like the pendulum is beginning to swing the other way, especially on projects like Eternia’s new album, the aptly-titled At Last. While those with completely closed minds will likely, and unfortunately, skip over At Last, those whose mental doors are open, even if just a crack, will find a project showcasing a relentlessly quality rapper. (On second thought, if your mind’s closed, Eternia still might kick it open.) If the lure of a deeply talented emcee isn’t enough, At Last also features, from top to bottom, boom-bap soaked beats from rising production giant MoSS. Whether it’s the start of a movement or ultimately more of a one-woman show, there’s no denying that At Last can run with the big boys.
Eternia doesn’t waste any time letting everyone know she came to do work, spitting an ill 32 Bars before launching into the not even remotely humorous It’s Funny. Backed by a turntable heavy beat by Moss, Eternia, despite her Canadian roots, launches into some old school New York flows that take no prisoners: “Woman or man it’s not personal, learn the girl that birthed you, find her and reverse you.” But more than the lyrics it’s the strength of her conviction, the determined steel with which she delivers her lines, that makes Funny People a standout. We find those same qualities again on The BBQ. Joined by fellow femcees Rah Digga (who absolutely kills it) and Lady Rage, Eternia absolutely punishes the track, leaving teeth marks on the beat. Maybe it’s in her nature, maybe she’s been pushed into such aggressiveness, but throughout At Last Eternia proves she is, in the immortal words of the Wu, ain’t nothin’ to f**k wit.
At Last is truly a collaborative effort, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t give some shine to MoSS. At Last has been several years in the making for MoSS, and while his sound’s become more deeply layered in recent months, this album often finds him sticking to a crunching boom-bap core. The closing track Goodbye takes a raw snare, adds in some muddied synths and a dirty, ethereal vocal sample to dopely disturbing, almost religious effect. Speaking of which, the religiously based Pass That finds MoSS juxtaposing a gospel-influenced melody with a hip-hop edge, and perfectly balanced blend he repeats on the ode/warning against alcoholism Mr. Bacardi. A MoSS beat won’t blow you away, but real hip-hop heads know subtlety is the truest test of a producer’s skills.
If all Eternia displayed on At Last was that same chip-on-her-shoulder aggressiveness we could write off some of her delivery as mere bluster, but time and time again she delves into some deeply personal, honest and vulnerable material (think Brother Ali). The Half is, as far as I know, hip-hop’s first anthem for half-brothers and sisters (Eternia’s family background appears to be, to say the least, complicated), Played Out is an examination of a relationship that was clung onto far too long, and the aforementioned Pass That delves into a love triangle between her mother, father and God. It’s tracks like these that give Eternia an extra dimension that makes her music particularly engaging, but as long as she’s been in the game, At Last is still more of a beginning than an apex for Eternia. She still seems to need to prove herself, and probably justifiably so, but that need can also be limiting, both musically and lyrically. Hopefully the next time I write an Eternia album review I’ll be able to skip right pass the gender angle, and if I am, it will be due in no small part to Eternia’s efforts.
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 06/30/10
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