It would be easy to start a review about a John Graham release by comparing his thinking-man approach to the boatloads of non-thinking-man hip-hop that has been “running things” for the last decade or so. Such a comparison would definitely make my job easier, and save us all some time. I’d be done writing this in a few minutes, you could glance over it and assume we’re talking about another smart rapper who has golden age sensibilities. He’ll get put in the generic creative hip-hop box that contains thoughtless comparisons to DeadPrez, Immortal Technique, Jay Electronica (the ever-albumless), KRS-One, Talib Kweli and others who have fought various good fights before him. And while it’s true that he wouldn’t be in bad company (by a long shot), it would be a tragedy to miss what Mr. Graham is accomplishing on his own by putting him in that box. For his lane is truly his own.

** Click here to listen to Magic: Blanc et Noir by John Graham on Earbits! **

Magic: Blanc et Noir introduces us to a writer who can systematically peel back the layers of his own thought process with a level of sincerity, detail and outright humility that paints him as an MC with a bluesman brush. This is where John Graham parts roads with some of the aforementioned thinking luminaries and ghost rides his whip a little closer to the likes of Kanye, the Clipse or T.I.’s lanes. He’s not afraid to pick himself apart in the midst of picking apart the world around him and speak on the darker sides of  life with the emotional weight of a world-weary scientist. It sounds like one big experiment. Add that to his casual exploration of spirituality, metaphysics, politics, economics, history, biology, ecology and a few other “ologies”, and with John Graham we’re given a bravely versatile human being with great taste in beats. Oh, and he’s a pretty nasty word-smith, too. The title of his album isn’t just a string of pretty sounding pearls.

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Some of Graham’s greatest strengths are also chinks in his armor that I’m sure he’ll smooth out over his next few releases. So dense is he in his prolific rhyme schemes, wordplay and literary might, he rarely comes up for air. This can make him the type you’ll have to take in small doses until you get to know him better. Every minute is packed to proximity with heavy pontification. There are very few light moments. Since he comes across as unafraid to explore, you might find a few weak vocalizations and melodies on Magic: Blanc et Noir. The undeniable jewels on the project are “Life & Imitation”, “All Seeing Eye” and “Addiction”.

Look at this project as the setting forth of a mission statement and acompilation of well-crafted darts (some over familiar *cough* Dilla, The Neptunes *cough* beats), and it will be hard to walk away disappointed if you appreciate ferocious wordplay over solid beats.


Roshmond “Sum” Patten,  Artist Relations Manager / Earbits, Inc.
Twitter: @sumkilla

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