“Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaulteth not itself, is not puffed up.”
I Corinthians (ch. XIII, v. 4)
The musical art-form formerly known as rap is in a time of great strife and degradation. The tenuous fault line that separates the old and new school is dividing further apart everyday. Nothing lasts, everything is gimmick, what was considered new and fresh one week is now passé and retired the next. No one style is consistent; rulers of the past keep trying to reinvent themselves into modern day rap jesters playing to the throne, and their subjects criticize them for it. There is no imagination, no thoughtful intelligence, no real lyricism, it’s all just gibberish set to a drum beat; which consequently was what our parents said about the music of our era so in that it’s cyclical. But lo and behold, when I’m just one lame punch line away from screaming, “fuck this rap shit I listen to classical,” the artist formerly known as Percy Miracles aka Phonte drops a magnum opus of musical excellence so splendid that I dare say it’s the best rap album I’ve heard since I first heard rap.
Actually, I don’t want to disrespect this album by calling it mere rap, it has transcended that short crass word and become more than just the sum of its parts. It’s Metta World Peace Rap, an amalgamation of thought provoking and witty sonnets set to well balanced and crafted instrumentals. ‘Charity Starts At Home’ is the first solo album from Phonte of Little Brother/Foreign Exchange fame. Phonte has always been an artist of great personal integrity and artistic merit. His lyrical style is current and witty without resorting to rhythmic clichés and incoherent punchlines, plus his content is thought provoking without coming off as preachy. When you listen to his words you connect with him and relate to the story that he’s telling, he speaks from the heart and not just boasting off the top of his head
‘Charity Starts At Home’ is 12 tracks of pure high quality uncut dope that commands your attention, and makes you hit the instant replay to hear that amazing line again. The “play on words” opening track ‘Dance in the Reign’ puts Phonte in full MC mode. In a world full of self crowned Kings Phonte just two-steps past them, too busy being himself to stop and try to keep up with their petty monarchy, “This rap shit is not the life I live/it’s a tool that I use that’s it/no great fortune to show for it but fortunate that no one can say his life ain’t his.” ‘The Good Fight’ marks the musical reunion between Phonte and 9th Wonder and hearing the LB veteran recite lyrics over those signature moody keys and subdued drums once again.
‘Charity Starts At Home’ manages to avoid and surpass one of the pitfalls of an artist’s first album, it doesn’t get bogged down by the featured guests. The selected collaborators compliment the track they’re on and not try to outshine the main attraction. On ‘Not Here Anymore’ Elzhi picks up what Phonte put down and flows effortlessly on the infections drum beat. Phonte and Median expertly trade and weave thru bars on ‘Eternally Yours’, the former Justice League crew member excels here and makes this a standout feature. Other standouts are ‘We Go Off’ features the legendary Pharoahe Monch lending his talent and ‘The Life of Kings’ brings in Evidence and Big Kritt and pushes them in the limelight and they come out shining. A part time crooner, Phonte puts on his sangin’ voice for ‘To Be Yours’ and ‘Gonna Be A Beautiful Night’ with the enchanting Carlitta Durand. Speaking of ladies, Phonte has chosen some of the finest (pun intended) chanteuses to lend their heavenly voices to his album. From Sy Smith, the aforementioned Miss Durand, and the lovely newcomer Jeanne Jolly, these ladies elevate their respective featured tracks to a higher level of musical appreciation.
My favorite track on the album is ‘Sendin’ My Love’ in its honest portrayal of the frustration and struggle that men go through in our relationships with the women we decided to settle down with. Tigallo has always been able to capture, portray, and relate real life situations that everyday people go through. His lyrics don’t bask in opulence and ignorance, they see into the soul. “Too much honesty in here get ear plugs/Something in the way society rears us/Commitment wigs us… out, it tears us apart/and makes us feel like we don’t need to/and that turns into I don’t need you.” He continues this theme on the introspective ‘Ball and Chain’, and carries it to its logical conclusion on ‘Who Loves You More.’
‘Charity Starts At Home’ starts strong and ends even stronger, making this an unchallenged classic in circles where real music still matters. And if it really does, then come award time I hope to see Phonte accepting his well earned and long deserved accolades for all he has given to us. Charity does indeed start at home but it does not have to end there.