2010 is the age of liar rap. Rappers lie about the crimes they’ve committed (as a general rule actual drug kingpins don’t talk about their drug selling operations on national tv), rappers lie about how much money they have (you better get that rented Lamborghini back to the shop by Monday, the late fees are killer) and, of course, the women lining up to get with them (of course she dropped it low for you, she’s a stripper, it’s her job). Hell, even the supposedly truthful indie rappers can’t seem to stop themselves from engaging …
DJBooth Album Review
Surely there’s at least one rapper out there who’s willing to tell the truth? Who’s willing to reveal his life in all its success and failures? Actually, there is. His name is Phil Ade, and the sword of truth he swings is his new mixalbum The Letterman. A young DMV rapper who found a powerful sponsor in Raheem DeVaughn, Ade gets A Few Good Men-ish…I’ll wait for you to get the reference…throughout The Letterman, building the follow-up to his debut Starting on JV into a deeply listenable effort, but that’s not the truly impressive part. The impressive part is that he makes the truth sound so damn dope.
Fittingly there’s no better place to start than with the album’s opening cut The Letter, a slowly paced, jazzy and turntable filled cut that announces Ade’s lyrical ability and mission from the beginning, waxing philosophic on the true price of fame (your soul) while weaving in off-kilter pop culture references (word to Tony Danza). As an opening track its equal parts song and mission statement, a statement that we hear echoed far later on Letterman during Hollywood (Remix). While Ade’s not up to Raekwon’s level – who is? – he proves he’s more than capable of holding his own next to DMV compatriots Wale and Tabi Bonney, anchoring the track with a flow that dodges and jabs like Sugar Ray in his prime. I know all this praise may sound hyperbolic, but if there’s anything you learn after listening to The Letterman, it’s that Ade is a really, really good rapper. His storytelling skills on My Story are on point, his punchline game’s stellar (check Rapper Eater’s “A young artist, I mean Artest…had to get off the Rockets”) and he even gets a little vicious on Like Dat. Phil’s rhyme style may not blow you away, but over the course of an entire album his talent’s undeniable.
Like another DMV rapper, Ade is able to take his penchant for unapologetic lyricism and translate it into up-tempo enjoyable jams. I’ll admit I cringed before I pressed play on OMG, but once I did I found a track that’s far more banger than Usher.i.am part two (the title’s from Baby Got Back’s classic intro), and despite a hook that’s far from the usual, Jacket feels like one of those tracks that can be simultaneously artistic and radio friendly. Hell, Phil even manages to get in party mode while still maintaining his core quality, most notably on the addictively catchy Out Your Clothes. While a lot of other rappers, especially ones his age, would have crafted an ode to Patron with a bouncing beat like this, Ade keeps it light and flowing while still working in the occasional lyrical gem: “I’m ignorin my phone unless it’s important, tonight I’m takin your goods like I’m importin.” Crucially, given the theme of the review, Ade doesn’t slip into liars territory, even when he’s at his most baller on Young, Black and Successful and Pay 4 That; he’ll buy you a drink and dinner, not take you on a private jet to the Bahamas. See rappers, was that so hard?
The Letterman isn’t a perfect project, you could shave off a few tracks and no one would miss them, but a mixalbum like this is more a promise of what’s to come than a final destination, and with that in mind, it feels like there are only big things to come for Phil Ade. Let’s just hope the antidote to liar’s rap remains the truth as his inevitable ascension continues. First it was JV, then a letter; next up, the big leagues.
Listen to More: Phil Adé Written by Nathan S.
368 Music Group
First DJ Booth Appearance:
"Gimme Dat" (2009)
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