Hip-hop may have grown up on the street corners and in the youth centre of 70’s South Bronx as a voice to those who were looking for new avenues of expression but it has also evolved from those raw beginnings and found new outlets and new purpose from highly visible mainstream channels to guarded underground musical missions. Unlike similar movements such as punk which even today seems to be a 60 year old man filled with too much teenage rage or rave music who’s distant echo can just be heard floating away above the sites of long forgotten illegal gatherings, hip-hop, and this album certainly comes from a hip-hop place, worked out how to move with the times.
Musical Therapy feels exactly who the title describes it, the innermost thoughts and feelings, musings and emotions being set to music, a couch session that draws the lyrics out of the soul and sees those inner most reflections become the focal point, somehow totally personal yet universally relatable. Intimate yet perhaps just one part of the collective consciousness, a voice for all of us, if only we were brave enough to slide onto that therapists black leather couch.
Sliding smoothly in with the stream of consciousness outpouring put to smooth grooves that is My Mind the album manages to wander down a lot of musical avenues, all criss-crossing the one marked hip-hop but wandering along soulful sidewalks, pop pathways, trip-hop alleyways as well as along a number of hidden tracks not even marked on the map. Ocean takes gentle acoustica and wraps some glitchy harmonies around it, topping it all off with profound rhymes and poignant reasoning, Vibe is a buoyant flirt put to a skittering beat and Self Love is a brilliant personal declaration of independence.
Hip-hop has always been good at looking inward, of being honest, of looking you in the eye and telling you how it is. Whilst chart pop seems obsessed with a teen fantasy version of love, rock music often paints a misogynistic vision and indie music doesn’t really bother giving any insights as look as it can check its hair in the mirror to make sure that it is looking good, hip-hop is happy to have a personal one-to-one. And the smooth nature and lilting melodies found here make this feel like a late night heart to heart with a close friend.
Jim E. Watts has delivered a great album here. One that beats with a pulse that would be familiar to those early urban pioneers but which is very much living in the here and now. And that’s how its done!