Rap is something you do and Hip Hop is something you live. And rapping is something Starvin B does that proves his living Hip Hop. Simple. An MC with no technical flaw, fully entertained as an overtly savage persona laced with a subtlety of witty intelligence via the depth of an everyman honorably striving. His flow is fortified by word choices that syllable exactly, a raspy vocal that assists the snare and an effortless breath control. His album work since 2010 aren’t collections that thematically answers to a thesis or work to promote a designed character. Instead, they are the sharpest songs in a selected moment in his time living Hip Hop…as an MC.
The 90’s are a golden era because the production itself rewarded the work of crate diggers and the expectations for content and skill were constantly rising. Yet, labels themselves slowed the progress of those MCs that work as a Starvin B. Those type of MCs that rhyme to rhyme and let ideas become songs naturally with no premeditation. Without select artists that are pure embodiments of technique and skill, we lose the complete scope of the Art itself. In the 10’s the resurgence happens covertly and Starvin is one of those MCs that makes this decade so concentrated in fulfilled talent in album works. With Be Like Water, much like 2012s Mic Tyson by Sean Price, Starvin B binds his best of the moment with a fury that never slows.
With any Art of skill, natural talent and its constant practice make for more precision. Here Starvin is definitive, connecting the album with innovative choruses that offer commentary through battle prose as on “Ulterior Motives” (“curse the ground that I walk on/just coast on by/wipe my lips when I kiss this ish goodbye/feed my enemies to the dogs in the streets of N.Y./ like they thought I wouldn’t notice the ulterior motives” or “My 5th Amendment” (“It ain’t over til the fat lady dies of a heart attack/I speak my mind/no need to pardon that/your future is violent and bloody/my 5th amendment can’t be silenced, buddy”).
The cleverness of commentary is absolutely apparent throughout the verses as well from the incredible verses on “Death to the Infidels” that include bars as “..It’s time to the bathe in the knowledge of a dying wino/I ran the pussy like a flying rhino/just spin the vinyl/are you getting it yet?/the alphabet was designed for me to enter your mind/and get your etiquette wet/people forget that this is Hip Hop and that’s rap/Rap’s a corporate interpretation of generation gaps/and that’s wack/seeing Hip Hop’s a way of life where I don’t follow the man or eat shit to survive/fifteen minutes of shine/they keep cancelling mine/gave more time to late night infomercials to sell knives…”
Still, Starvin B doesn’t premeditate concepts, songs as “Narcotics” show his ability to make a simple tale complex with sharp details added. His ability to infuse commentary into whole tracks or within battle lines destroy the cliché of a skin-hitting, weed-loving, music-funning Hip Hoppa from Queens the great enjoyment of Be Like Water can cause. On “Self Programmed” he brilliantly questions the worth of entertainment itself (including all this rap and his own Hip Hop works) as the chorus flows, “Lights, cameras, actions/all this entertainment is just another distraction…” He then drops lyrics on the macro oppressive elements we are often blinded by (“…Tell the truth to the youth/all the jewels don’t glisten/don’t be another dude fighting over food in prison/they serial numbered your slum up/another come up/brown tar bundles get smuggled inside a dump truck/it’s wacky/ they actually tax me to fuck my lungs up/exactly whatever to trap inside a dumpster/these bright lights make it hard to see/and even though I ain’t cuffed up I am hardly free”).
Musically, the sound quality is certainly elevated from last year’s Something in the Water LP. Starvin, recording the majority of the album at Goblin Music Studios, works in an atmosphere that is accustomed to excellence and has filled its booth’s walls with some of the most livest break beat Boom Bap producers of today. Starvin works these choices perfectly as with “Emergency Room” as classic snare leading break introduces him well. However, Sauce Jacqson’s track illuminates itself with a bassline that continues to splatter itself over the drum work with DJ Akil’s cuts amplifying the lovely chaos. The Beatnuts’ Psycho Les’ “Clear Benches” and “Infinity Gauntlet” are addictively minimalist as “Clear..” stabs its guitar licks through bassdrums while the womping bassline and mash clap snare drive “Infinite..” Songs as these amplify the respective guests Juju (of The Beatnuts) and Sean Price to drop bars and add ons that are as fun as Starvin B verses throughout. With tracks also from Jm Productions aka #NPAD, George Black and Tre Eiht Special, Starvin’s choices are many in the elite Boom Bap category.
Word coupling and charisma, internal rhyming and clever punchlines, superior breath control and hardcore tracks…the collections of songs that pair with Starvin B’s moments of MC life, now as Be Like Water, continue to be a preserved history of Art excellence we must enjoy fluidly.