STARVIN B – BLOOD FROM A STONE Review

By SUNEZ

“Please stop selling me dreams after I’m asleep…”  – “Blue Note”

This is serious.  Now he finished that How To Rap book.  And he filled it with highlights, notations and ear marks.  He’s gone off to get practice in the field.  It’s a barren field but the few casualties he accumulates he gifts himself.  Off to the tech stores to crowd his barracks with the equipment that holds his ammo.  This soldier, hopefully perfecting a craft, snatching small successes at each turn and collecting for higher outlets isn’t Starvin B.

See, if you were awake when these tales were sold you’d hear of stories less bold.  That half of the professionalized rappers How To Rap’s Paul Edwards spoke to were generally weak.  Another select amount are veterans of circumstance where everything but the skills and content was their passport to industry.  And that very last core, the G Raps, Kanes, Monchs are the legends.  And a legend can share for insight to Art but they cannot make an artist.  This rapping is a skill.  One I’ve covered for two decades and enthused over for at least one more before that.  Still, the skill is no result of hard hustle trill.  Its core needs a natural talent that then is obsessively worked over and over and over again. Without that talent you’d just be starving to be Starvin B…

“..turn your back like whatever…” – “Blue Note”

Starvin B’s albums are life highlights of his thoughts and talents for a collected moment.  They began in 2010 and with five LPs leading to this sixth, Blood From a Stone, he has reached a prolific peak of excellence that is reminiscent of MF Doom’s brilliance the last decade.  A brilliance characterized by endless flowing that is filled with clever punchlines, charismatic inflections and exclamations and insight woven throughout.  Starvin B is so different than Doom in many ways yet peaks on the same mighty plateaus.   As a NYC MC out of Queens, he is, at this moment, the most purest form of MCing one can find.   While today’s best MCs of skill and content are noted now for making Art masterpieces (Pharoahe Monch) or gritty films (KA) or epic non-fiction novels (The Wisemen MCs), Starvin B just battles and builds by default or exalts won battles with builds on all the faults.  He is an MC’s MC whose technical skill is at the level of legends prior with a developing content with such strong albums of real time, hard time living thoughts.  Now with the aid of an ill Boom Bap producer One Take, collecting, plotting and beat-scaping over three years, Blood From A Stone sees Starvin B make his strongest thematic album of his long career of short years.

“…and move at your own speed…” – “Blue Note” 

Speeds over many beat tempos, able to leap extra collective of vowels and syllables in one single break, all tracks of tall buildings.  The mastery that Starvin B attains on Blood is not far from his other LPs, but they are so dramatically precise here.  With one of MCing’s most memorable raspy vocals, Starvin’s breath control is excitingly illogical.  It all opens with the “Buddah Bless”  sparring session with a piano loop black tiger punching a bio of his mentality in pure athletic sprint.  Just as with the following “Blue Note,” his fluidity via words with perfectly laced syllable structure, clear articulation and stylistic enunciation with no needed empty spaces of pauses lets us dive into his world.  Starvin uses assonance, rhyme coupling and internal rhyming so effortlessly, his bars have a rushing water likeness.  “Mexican Standoff” starts off as if we just caught up with him as he leads, “On to my next assignment/ Johnny Cash I walk the line with/thinking out the box/no solitary confinement/ripping out the box til she drippin’ like a sinus/the line’s is Queen’s finest/ so get the clippers/leave a family of sixty sisters/ with sticky zippers/the jam pinner with the hungry man temper/my antennae/got ya man looking like placentas….”  For “Lobsters” he starts with an introductory ease and tempos up when One Take drops the break.  Inflections infect dynamically and end with a wordplay display that earns its title, “…make your flesh boil how you see a lobster die/what’s a lobster/lame ass mobster/why the fuck are you trying so hard to be a popular guy/you just messing up your life and I ain’t about to stop ya/damn sure didn’t order lobster.”

The depth is offered at times overtly as on “Me Against the Drugs” where he flows at a mid tempo on the losing fights.  Starvin’s sharp honesty gives importance to his battle verses as he has always versed that our lack of integrity leads to our suffering.  “It’s time to simplify the cash/ it’s time to cascade/your opinion is an improvised ashtray/I don’t stress the obnoxious, they on a fast fade/prehistoric dinosaurs stuck up in their last days/If you got locked up would your friends write you if all your raps were washed up in the spin cycle/hold the telephone/you say you get it in like who?…” opens “Halal Truck” and it powerfully becomes ill back and forth verse swaps with Spent D’nero and Urijah.

This endless fluidity of rhyming can be a curse as monotony can creep in yet Starvin starves that curse.  The star track, “Rap College” with Spit Gemz’ power verse of the deepest footnotes and Tragedy Khadafi’s camouflaged intellectual ruggedness is capped by one of Starvin B’s greatest verses.  Blending commentary with cleverness that only appear to be non sequitirs (“What the fuck you know about the working man’s hands? The pain and hard labor, the race to a hundred grand/Good luck saving up in New York, live off the land/Money can’t buy love or who gives a fuck if it can/rather let ‘em hate while I buy some land in Japan/your homegirl sniffed all of the hour glass sand”), Starvin dynamically keeps one pondering one bar and enjoying the cleverest lines the next.  By the end of the verse, he never cuts his speed despite comedic inflections keeping a long verse hype (“…A dollar and a dream will get you a shit sandwich/you wanna just manage/you might as well just vanish/my bank account is eeghh/personality luxurious/the rest of him make a lesbian bi-curious/I’m sure of this/I’ll get the kettle to boil/bury the treasure next to metal and oil/my bank account eeghh/that’s why life ain’t fair/bust a nut and disappear…”).

All this mic dominance is given closure and thematic unity on the title track as he questions his existence.  Finding faults, flaws and failures flaunted, fitted and fought against, he likens his reality as a stone that no bloodsucking can now be done on.  Damn the entertaining manuals, MCing is a natural gift for Starvin but the more he writes and recites the more of a poet of real worth he is becoming.

“…Now you got it on the right track…” – “Blue Note” 

In the halls of the raw Goblin Studios, hardcore beatmaking is a fucking expectation of excellence exhibited.  The MCs you don’t know about inspire the Sean Prices and Sadat X’s that record there.  And so it is with the beat makers that honor the producer legends as Juju and Psycho Les that lay drums there.  One Take, on the surface, doesn’t quite make the great beat you’ve never ever heard…just yet.  In his burgeoning career, he makes every last beat incredibly right and layered for multiple listenings.  His work is tough execution that is hidden behind the caliber of MCs that rhyme on his works.  Listening deeper, the jewel of Blood From a Stone versus Starvin B’s other mandatory albums is One Take’s cohesive production crafted over years.

The beats themselves are pure and addictively right and exact.  There is the slow, distinct piano keys over a 1, 2 break with the hiccuped snare of “Halal Truck” and the rolling pianos that speeds Starvin into his bars and the thud break on steady head nod of “Buddha Bless.” There is the watery blips of “Mexican Standoff” punctuated by a bass groove popping in and out letting us study the verses.  There is the snare and high hat thickness of “Where the F*** I Been,” the funky tempo of “Universal Language” and the loud banger snaps of “Lobsters” that we can even say is a becoming a signature sound of Goblin Studio.  Still, the worth of the production is in the varying tempos of breaks, proper arrangements on Starvin’s flow inflections, the subtle emphasis of hooks.  One Take is a producer for the MC vocals and the drum obsession of the listener.  You won’t immediately notice him but you will listen to his every maneuver.

“Love it if it loves you back/That’s that” …” – “Blue Note”

Starvin is a brother that is a sincere listener to ideas he sees and even doesn’t see.  That depth makes him an MC worthy of listening to.  An MC that easily could match the glory 90’s, he is unique to these times as an MC that could developed this ill by unadulterated indie grind.  With One Take finally exhibits his beat skill to craft an entire master work that puts Starvin B closer to the cipher of greats he is versing himself into.

 “Love equals forever, hate equals defeat/turn your back like whatever/ and move at your own speed/ now you got it on the right track/ love it if it love you back/That’s that.“ – “Blue Note”