Music Reviews

Verbs: Unlocked Review

Verbs (previously Knowdaverbs) has undergone some changes. Previously rocking dreads, and a longer name he has definitely switched up a few things, but more on that later. Verbs originally got his break by hopping on a track with label-mates Grits, and soon after was scooped up by Gotee Records. He now resides in Tennessee and has released two previous albums (“DaSyllabus” and “Action Figure”), and each time growing artistically and setting mile markers for his career. Will he keep it up on this third release “Unlocked”?

“Live To The Music” opens up on a very hot beat reminiscent of something the Neptunes might be capable of creating, upbeat and futuristic with a middle-eastern appeal. He has definitely exchanged his choppier lyrical rap for a smoother flowing style, the style is a nice switch, but it appears to come at the cost of his wittier flow we previously enjoyed. The hook comes across forced and unimaginative as a more generic party chorus.

“She’s Ms. Sin” brings the chorus out first, and it’s very nicely led by Out of Eden (also on Gotee). The rhythm is lacking but is made up for in content of the song overall. The message is pretty simple and is about being smarter about the decisions we make to step into sin by its allure. Lyrically, mid-tempo flow is not overly creative but does bring a mild poetic taste, but the hook is music to your ears.

“Trippin'” comes a little closer to something bumpable and has a very bouncy beat to allow a little dancing and head-bobbing. The hook rolls very nicely and almost demands you learn it so that you can chant along with Verbs and GUEST, whom, while valiantly attempting to grab the mic with authority ultimately does not accomplish anything noteworthy. However, Verbs does a great job on his verse style-wise, lyrically and delivering something to make you go “hmmmmm”, such as “fatherless dealin with rage, they fight to escape the shame / finger pointing at knife’s to blame and the bitterness begins to flame / not seeing beyond the hood, life is automatically lacking / demons of death on desolate blocks, and they feigning for destiny jackings”.

“Love Triangle” slows the tempo up a tad bit with a smooth guitar (spanish guitar perhaps?) and heavy kick drum giving the meditative aura. The hook is provided by GUEST2 and is about average in the presentation and wording. Verbs manages a great vocal inflection coupled with provocative lyrics sparking deeper thought through poetic verses.

“Pre-Paid” has a very contrived chorus, Grits co-stars on the first two verses in this uptempo party jam. The first verse is cannon fodder but is made up for in verse two by his gritty partner. Verbs hops on the third verse mildly overall but drops a nice line in “the game of life will handle you in a manly way / leave you actin Immature like you’re B2K”. “What You Rock Now” bangs out the chanty chorus first, all eyes are on Verbs this time, the beat fades gently to the background to bring sole focus on our hero who spews the chorus “What you rock now, and how you rock now, echoes in eternity / if it’s not you who then? / and if it’s not now then when, does the greatness begin?…” and in a verse spits “now some hate this / he stamps a name on the faceless / and planted his genetic code, its DNA laced with greatness / feeling like a winner from a sweep stakes / as we sweep breaks just to give the listener a sweet taste”. A very destiny-by-God oriented song brings home relevance to those who are quick to listen, not a flashy beat or super hot chorus, but lyrically capable of deep thought and nice wordplay.

“Feelin’ The Interlude” captures Verbs stepping outside of his normal rapping voice and he switches to a reggae rap-sing style, and it does not sound bad at all, although it may come a little awkward at first but it does work nicely to be quite honest. This will be a nice song to get the crowd dancing, albeit for only two minutes since it is a rather short song. “My Neighborhood” finds a rather laid back tone with a nice jazzy vocal sample to make your ears attentive. Lyrics are the core focus, but instead of the wordplay you’ll find yourself intently hearing stories of young people coming out of bad situations to rise above the trials. Brilliant stories (which I would assume are true) coupled with a solid beat and great hook a la Grits.

“Run With It” is a very electronic vibe, with a grinding bass line and plenty of electric hits. Verbally, Verbs comes with 3 sets of 16 bars properly connecting each word with plenty of skill. The chorus is blah, it’s there but won’t be in your mind once you turn the station making this a good track to pad the record but nothing to be remembered past the first play. “Can You Hear Me?” is another padding for the album, the first two verse are provided by GUEST and GUEST respectively, and both go by unnoticed and the saving grace is a few lines by Verbs in the third, “trained for the combat, built rock diesel / injected with a power that can quicken dead people / some stay sleep, but that’s not us / we’re infamous and popular in the populous”. The hook leaves a lot to be desired and the beat is nothing to gain attention.

“The Before and After” is all about 9/11, the day before and the day after. A reflective rhythm geared to spawn thoughts invoked from the verses and chorus. A challenging song with words like “Many got no sleep last night was restless / some tossed and turned inside their minds with questions / like, “where was God when terror struck our town?” / He’s out where you left him before the buildings came down”. “Triumphant Outro” lets you know up front that the chorus is weak, Verbs kicks in with a voice that sounds like it’s coming over an old radio. The music is not too shabby and comes across rather militant, but the track is ultimately just filler.

Overall, the album has set some landmarks for Verbs (again, formerly Knowdaverbs) in that his production is much more consistent than previously and his style has once again evolved as every emcee should. Lyrically, he has not progressed, not an altogether bad thing since he has never been a poor lyricist however at certain times in the CD his lyrics do regress to favor the style which compliments the music side rather than the mental portion. It would seem to the observer that there was concern over reaching new audiences while maintaining the past fans, and while he will undoubtedly gain the attention of the upcoming generation and grasp his vision of reaching the youth there may be a trade-in of unsatisfied Verbs fans. What should you expect when you listen to this CD? Some nifty beats throughout, good hooks popping up here and there and definitely some nice rapping styles accompanied by fantastic messages for encouraging everyone to make good decisions with their life and destiny. I gladly give 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Track Listing:
1. Live To The Music
2. She’s Ms. Sin
3. Trippin’
4. Love Triangle
5. Pre-Paid
6. What You Rock Now
7. Feelin’ The Interlude
8. My Neighborhood
9. Run With It
10. Can You Hear Me?
11. The Before and After
12. Triumphant Outro

3.5 out of 5