Over the weekend, Josh Smith ’11 released his debut full length album Of Mics and Men. You may know Josh by his super-hero alter-ego transformer-awesome power ranger name WordSmith (as in WordSmith & The Concert G’s) from one of the many shows they’ve rocked on campus over the past few years. The album was produced exclusively by Jared Paul ’11 and features vocals from Lucy Strother ’11 and Katherine McDonald ’11.
The album is available for free via TheNewConfusion.com (www.TheNewConfusion.com/WordSmith) or you can stream it (and read a review by Davy Knittle ’11) after the jump.
(Also, it’s really, really good. So download it and tell all your friends.)
Of Mics and Men is at once homage to the landscape of Josh Smith’s upstate New York upbringing and a 28-minute lyric letter of appreciation to the community that helped him come to be. Backed by Jared Paul’s clever, often cryptic beats, Of Mics and Men is at once full of restlessness and of sweetness, locating WordSmith in his own process of balancing his fierce love of community in tracks like “Of Mics and Men,” with the home that he’s made in the quietest recesses of himself in “Keys,” where he locates himself, saying: “I’m in the middle writing riddles in the form of raps / live from the eye trying to find where the storm is at.”
Lyrically, WordSmith’s rhymes are delicate and carefully wound. While he deals with topics ranging from community to relationships to self-knowledge and compassion for the distance between human hearts, his rhymes are uniformly intentional, tight and visually complex. WordSmith has the quiet courage of P.O.S and the late poet Frank Stanford’s acumen for blurring myth into living. His writing takes cues equally from the musical poetics of Yusef Komunyakaa and from flawless carpenters of the spit verse like Atmosphere and Aesop Rock.
“Book Of” stands out as a glimpse into the logic of the link between WordSmith’s crew and his process of composition. Central to the album, the track articulates the strength of WordSmith’s ability to rep friendship and interiority and to twist them around in the space made by the beat to see how many ways they can fit together.
The knockout, however, is “Crosses.” Here, WordSmith pushes himself to the limits of his firing speed, his delivery sounding singularly urgent. If the strength of WordSmith’s writing is his ability to speak to the private and the public in each person, then it makes sense that “Crosses” hits like a sacrifice of that balance. In “Crosses,” WordSmith puts his words to work to reach out and maybe to attempt to heal a little. From these two central tracks, Of Mics and Men, spreads out to the endpoints of its lyric wingspan, a solid debut album from a rapper who has the skill and heart to make his rhymes do the best real work that a rap song can do.
– Davy Knittle, Stethoscope Press, 2010