L-Smooth proves himself a hip-hop purist on Era of an Emcee

The intro of Midwest City rapper L-Smooth’s Era of an Emcee, released May 4, is a two-and-a-half-minute dissertation on what it means to be a proper hip-hop emcee and how that differs from the rapper label.

The sampled voice of original gangsta rapper Ice-T explains that an emcee is someone who knows how to work a crowd. Rakim, who practically invented the concept of lyrical flow, tells us they are talented wordsmiths who take time to perfect their craft. A rapper might just know how to do their hit song and that’s it.

Era of an Emcee is proof positive that L-Smooth is a proper student of hip-hop’s vocal element.

As the title suggests, this is a project filled with rhymes, and L-Smooth has enough ammunition and support to justify its run time of about 45 minutes.

He wastes no time on the first proper track, “North Oaks,” a short but vivid portrait of growing up in his Midwest City neighborhood. It serves as a great stylistic and biographical introduction for those who might be new to L-Smooth, who spent some time on the National Airplay Top 50 Independent charts last year with his lead single “Pillow Cases.”

That tune, featuring a West Coast, G-funk vibe and soulful assisting vocals from Shylah Vaughn, is one of the project’s peak moments. L-Smooth’s flow is like butter. There might be no better example of that than in “Pillow Cases,” his plea to the city to stop sleeping on his talent.

Era of an Emcee also broaches thought-provoking issues. On “Jordans,” L-Smooth tackles the gravitational pull of commercialism and ponders why image often takes priority over what should really matter, like having a steady job or supporting one’s family.

The album’s most exciting moment comes at the end, however, on the title track’s remix. The original is great as a standalone, but the remix is a virtual cypher featuring some of the state’s most gifted rhyme-spitters.

Element Life, Continental Cudd, Apeks, A.D. Trax (who delivered the album’s best guest verse on the third track, “For the Family”), Nada Problem, K.B., WeRdoZe and Sheezy put on a verbal clinic. This kind of posse cut should happen more often in the local scene, especially one as deep as Oklahoma City.

L-Smooth effectively showcases his skills on this 2016 release. In future projects, it would be interesting to see the emcee expand his storytelling.

Some of the project’s most interesting moments are also the most autobiographical. Listeners can probably learn a lot from the specific stories of Midwest City through L-Smooth’s lyrical filter.

Ultimately, Era of an Emcee should be recommended to anyone who claims there’s no rap talent in this state. It also serves as a testament to the idea of emceeing as an art form. The idea that all hip-hop or rap somehow lacks skill or polish is ill-informed and offensive, and a notion L-Smooth does a good job dispelling.

Visit l-smooth405.bandcamp.com to stream or buy Era of an Emcee.

Print headline: Pro Era, L-Smooth demonstrates his classic hip-hop chops on Era of an Emcee.

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