The last time I wrote about K. Sparks, way back in 2009 (did they even have the internet back then?), the prolifically productive NYC emcee was my number one pick for “wait, why isn’t he signed?” status after dropping his Super Senior mixalbum. In fact, I wrote, “If the majors won’t open the door Sparks is going to keep knocking with new dope music until they’re forced to let him in.” My how things have changed. For the record, Sparks hasn’t changed, the music industry has. Sparks has continued to make unrelentingly quality music, but …
DJBooth Album Review
For the record, Sparks hasn’t changed, the music industry has. Sparks has continued to make unrelentingly quality music, but the major labels have become a shell of their former self – signing to one is like chaining yourself to the Titanic. So instead of fending off A&Rs attempts to get him to collaborate with Justin Bieber, Sparks is free to build his fan base, make music his way and release albums like Tomorrow Today. A work that contains ample evidence of his growth as an artist, Tomorrow Today was produced entirely by Pajozo (the one producer, one rapper renaissance continues!) and as a result it’s his most cohesive effort to date; no small feat for a man who released approximately 47 billion tracks a year. (Hey, I said approximately.)
Fittingly, it doesn’t take more than one track to show how well Sparks and Pajozo work together. Welcome opens with an entrancingly angelic vocal sample and then cinematically builds, providing the Queens emcee with ample room to maneuver, and maneuver he does. While Sparks has never shied away from tackling life’s larger issues on Welcome, and Tomorrow Today on the whole, he’s openly embraced his role as a voice of the people: “I’m addicted to winnin I’m bout to overdose / so get my good vein shoot it up lie robberies / dealers in the hood, corner stores and lotteries.” That ability to relate his personal trials and tribulations to the trials and tribulations of everyone, or at least every non-billionaire, pervade Tomorrow Today, whether on the soul-infused Everyday Struggle or the openly inspirational Alright, a cut that quickly flips between the stories of several people fighting to simple make life worth living. There aren’t many emcees who can enter the lives of his fans, truly tell their stories, and as Tomorrow Today shows he’s only getting better.
While the album certainly contains no shortage of opportunities for deep reflection, there are still a handful of times when Sparks just rhymes and rhymes hard, like on the reggae-esque He Said She Said. Sparks doesn’t bust out his double-time flow often, but when he does, like on She Said’s closing verse, he’s a surgeon with the flow. Or just take a listen to the posse cut Double Up Loyalty – while each emcee certainly drops solid rhymes it’s Sparks that makes the track rewind worthy, working in a couple nice punchlines (that FEMA line had me rolling) while also interweaving some well placed internal rhymes: “scripture / liquor / pictures / sisters”. And then, of course, there’s the up-tempo Drummer Boy, easily the album’s most aggressive offering and the track that will keep the hip-hop heads happy. They might not admit it, but there will be more than a couple emcees who listen to Tomorrow Today while taking notes.
Listening to Tomorrow Today I’m reminded of something I wrote in regards to the versatility Sparks displayed on Super Senior: “The danger of being everything to everyone is that you can become nothing to no one, and as Sparks continues to develop as an artist I hope he’ll be able to further solidify his musical mission.” It looks like I don’t have to worry anymore. From start to finish Tomorrow Today has a message – even in the face of incredible obstacles hold true to yourself and you’ll overcome – and weaves that message into every track, even the seemingly more romantic material like Please Don’t Go. So you know what? I’m officially retiring all the “why isn’t he signed, when will he sign?” talk. Now, more than ever, the correlation between being signed and making dope music, which the last time I checked was the actual point of all of this, is tenuous at best. Independent, major, slept on, overrated, whatever. I’m not worries about labels (pun intended), I’m only worried about listening to as much K. Sparks as possible. I suggest you do the same.
DJBooth Rating - 4 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 04/11/11
First DJ Booth Appearance:
"All That Jazz" (2008)
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