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There are many paths to revolution. On Dallas, Texas rapper Bobby Sessions’ debut album RVLTN 3: The Price Of Freedom, the route lies in self-reliance and ownership. It’s a message he hammers home over and over again across the project’s 13 tracks; thankfully, he’s skillful enough to keep the content engaging throughout. Part J. Cole-ish, regular guy rumination and Nipsey Hussle-esque proselytizing, Bobby propagates his ideal world well, even if his vision seems a little rough around the edges.
Like all revolutions, the groundwork for RVLTN 3 had to be laid long before the album itself was released and just like the massive social upheaval currently sweeping through America’s cities and social media, the first step was acknowledging the flaws of the system needing overhaul to begin with. It’s why Bobby kicked off the RVLTN series with a project titled The Divided States of AmeriKKKa. The 2018 EP was rife with blunt observations about the country’s centuries-long history of abuse of Black people, kicking off with the lynching narrative “Like Me.”
Told from the first-person perspective of the victim, the song detailed the atrocities and attitudes that form the foundation of every other injustice that has befallen Black folks since Emancipation. “Politics” covered just what those are, then RVLTN 2: The Art Of Resistance set up the response. If the projects could be compared to the stages of the literal revolution currently taking place on the streets of America’s cities today, the first EP is the one that ties most directly to the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice, the way those tragedies brought light to a history spanning hundreds of years.
The second EP could be likened to this past year, when Black people and allies truly began to research the history of resistance movements. Reading lists proliferated, debates spilled from online forums to real-world organizing, infographics detailing the complex systems of oppression and proposed solutions to them filled social media timelines. RVLTN 3, then, works as a vision of the future, tying in how each of the previous iterations should inform the idealized outcome, optimism beaming through, even as Sessions contrasts that vision with the dilapidated conditions that plague our society today.
The preaching begins in earnest on “Reparations.” Sessions advocates for “gentrifying our own sh*t.” In his vision, there is no fixing America’s moral compass — real-life reparations aren’t soon in coming. So, the solution, in his mind, is self-sufficiency, communalism, and support for Black businesses. He elaborates on these concepts in the raucous “Black Wall Street” featuring fellow Dallas natives, The Outfit, TX. “I ain’t trying to claim no hood, I’m trying to own the hood,” one of his co-conspirators crows over the hook. “Don’t touch my hair, shout-out to Solange / Bought my own barbershop, I own the salon,” Sessions champions, stringing together a list of businesses rife for potential.
One problem with “message music” is how quickly it can turn into talking down to the artist’s audience. Bobby narrowly avoids this trap — although he comes dangerously close to falling in several times — by couching these financial tidbits in his own “boy from the hood who made it out” narratives. “Made A Way,” with its gospel sample and perky, piano-based loop, draws on the traditions of Black religion and Southern traditions to tie him more closely to the audience, framing him as less a pulpit preacher than one of the congregation sharing his testimony. Likewise, “Raised By The Internet” is a “how do you do, fellow Millennials” moment, lamenting the intruding ubiquity of technological distractions but leavening the tongue-lashing with a light-hearted notification ping that throws him off his flow.
That flow — his cleverness with wordplay and syllable-a-second cadence — is often what saves the project when it starts to get preachy or the politics seem questionable. Though Black Capitalism is falling somewhat out of vogue with would-be revolutionaries thanks to the aforementioned proliferation of infographics stating that “Capitalism is bad” in so many words, Sessions’ vision of the future seems out-of-step with current events. Fortunately, over the last few albums he’s shown an ability, willingness, and hunger to evolve his artistic vision. The next phase of his RVLTN will evolve with his worldview and with the world that is shaping it.
RVLTN3: The Price of Freedom is out now via Def Jam. Listen to it here.