As most of y’all know, I’m a student and aficionado of battle rap. I’ve made many good friends within the battle rap community, one of them being battle rap veteran Vokab from Seattle.
“The standout single on this EP is “Scratch That”, a piano-laced banger where Vokab depicts his perfect world for the listener”
I met Vokab at the first Don’t Flop Seattle event last year when I was visiting the Northwest. He has since released his debut project with producer Rhapsodist entitled The Rhapture EP.
This EP consists of eight tracks fully produced by Rhapsodist, who provided boom bap-styled production for Vokab to spit over. The sound is very reminiscent of 90’s “golden era” hip-hop. And by that I mean the classics; scratches, live instruments, quality hip-hop samples, and hard-hitting drums that aren’t exclusively 808s.
The standout single on this EP is “Scratch That”, a piano-laced banger where Vokab depicts his perfect world for the listener. In his third verse, I resonated with his message about how the creative process should be for artists: “No influence from the labels or buyers.” Imagine that.
Personally I think this song would’ve been a stronger way to kick off the EP, but I understand why he chose “Dividends” as the first track; Vokab outlines the story of how he got into emceeing. The only rap feature is from MP on “Champion’s Theme”, MP really shows off his creativity in the track weaving a story of what success feels like.
I would consider this project a “nostalgia piece”, especially since Vokab himself asked to “take it back” to when hip-hop was in a purer form, with songs like “The Essence” and “Slogans”, which is filled with classic hip-hop quotes from Nas to Mobb Deep. But don’t dismiss the EP as a lamenting “I miss the 90s” tribute album, this EP has chops.
“The sound is very reminiscent of 90’s “golden era” hip-hop. And by that I mean the classics; scratches, live instruments, quality hip-hop samples, and hard-hitting drums that aren’t exclusively 808s”
Vokab gets more personal midway through the EP with “Spitting Image”. It was dope to hear him open up about his marriage and the birth of his child in such a candid manner. The only other song on the project about love is “I’ll Always Love H.E.R.”, but I personally found “Spitting Image” to be much more touching and relatable. And before you start cracking your knuckles in preparation to correct me; yes, I’m aware that H.E.R. may be a metaphor for hip-hop people.
Another track where Vokab shows some introspection is the closer “Time Is Passing”, where he talks about his battle rap history with GrindTime and Tourettes (the venue, not the disorder lol). Which brings me to add this bit of critique: I think the EP accomplished the laid-back, underground hip-hop vibe it was going for, but I would like to hear more of the hilariously witty punchlines and dry humor that Vokab is known to bring in his battles.
If this was my first time listening to Vokab, I would’ve never known he was also a battle rapper. That visceral battle rap side of him is not as present on this project. You already know what it is: jokes over bars (just kidding). But I do think once Vokab starts incorporating his battle rap material and presence in his music, it will come off much more effortless and personable, because there is no reason those two personas should be separate.
All in all, I am proud to be a fan and friend of a battle rap mainstay like Vokab, and I encourage all my hip-hop heads to check out The Rhapture EP on: https://vokab206.bandcamp.com/releases