Words by Khalid Strickland
Contrary to what the mainstream media wants us to believe, there’s still a large contingent of rap fans who like their music rough-around-the-edges. Commercial radio can snooze, but many listeners prefer hard, boom-bap beats instead of the glitzy stuff that DJ Premier dubbed “Tinkerbell” music. Don’t get juxed by 106 & Park; there are folks who support gifted emcees with a semblance of rhyming ability.
Termanology, a throwback emcee hailing from Boston, seems to grasp this ideology. For his debut album, Politics As Usual, Termanology enlists an all-star production team for the ages including Pete Rock, Havoc, Nottz, and Primo. Not that they have anything to prove, but the accomplished producers on Politics… toss their gloves into the Hip-Hop arena, reminding the masses that their gritty style packs heat. With an arsenal of high-caliber instrumentals, Termanology delivers his formidable bars with a fluid, versatile flow tailored to each one.
Easy Mo Bee’s lone contribution, a short-but-sweet, bluesy groove, serves as the album’s intro. Subsequently, Primo lays his patented groundwork for a pair of aces on “Watch How It Go Down” and “How We Rock,” which features Bun B. On the former, Term runs so wild over the exultant beat transcribing his tongue-twisting lyrics won’t do them justice, while the latter serves as the album’s first single and is quite refreshing to hear a Southern rapper, especially an icon like Bun B, capably adapting to one of Premier’s bottom-heavy instrumentals. Alchemist laces “Hood Shit” with his usual ruggedness while Prodigy makes a cameo still proving he owns sharp one-liners, telling the haters, “while you still ping-pong weed, we each roll our own shit.” Nottz provides the lofty soundbed for “Float” and Term exhales new life into the tried-but-true weed smoking anthem, with lines like “Your boy Term floats through like Casper/Got my Dutch with me but it ain’t my master/I smoke heavy even with my pastor/Might cough up a lung but it ain’t my asthma/The ice in my cup looks like Alasksa/I ain’t lookin’ at you dudes, I’m lookin’ past ya’.”
Other gems on Politics… include “Drugs, Crime & Gorillaz” which features rewind-worthy verses from Sheek Louch and Freeway. Termanology uses a jagged cadence on this one, making sure each line is absorbed. But it’s Large Professor who brings out the best in Termanology on the moody “Sorry I Lied To You.” Here, Term digs into his soul and describes a “pitiful world, where your bitch is your girl/and your gun is friend, as well as your enemy/’cause you’ve got to defend, but the penitentiary/is where you’ll probably end, coincidentally/another felony same old melody/another person we loved turned to a memory.”
Politics As Usual from a technical stand-point, has minimal mistakes. The production is exceptional and Termanology is more of an emcee than a rapper. But Termanology pretty much delivers what was expected of him, and therein lays its main flaw. “Sorry I Lied…” notwithstanding, the bulk of the songs offer skilled lyrics but very little depth; a flurry of words but not many stick to the ribs. To quote Macbeth, Termanology at times is “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Give Raekwon this same production squad and he may have had a proper follow-up to Cuban Linx. Let Nas marinate with these tracks and he may have constructed Illmatic 2K. Termanology is gifted for sure, and as a rare emcee who actually seems to study Hip-Hop and its legends, he’s only going to get better. But this was a golden opportunity for him to exceed expectations and cement his place amongst the elite wordsmiths. Term’s play-it-by-the-numbers approach is what prevents Politics… from becoming a defining masterpiece. It’s still a heatrock of an album and with Termanology showing flashes of brilliance, there’s indication that the best is yet to come.
Previously Posted – Termanology’s Politics As Usual Album Release Party