Mainstream hip hop has cleverly twisted our cerebrums into creating aspirations of gangsterdom and success through violence and lies as opposed to intellect and hard work. It’s unrealistic and treacherous. It’s not real life. It’s a way of coping with real life by focussing all your energy on something fake. It might make things easier for a bit. But in the long term it sings failure all the way.
Well then, meet ‘Real Life’… Florida’s newest candour. A man who is willing to spend his days, words and wisdom living up to his name – Gotta learn gotta grow gotta let em all know… Words straight from the kick off track “Let Em Know”. The MC audience relationship in this track keeps you involved and interested. And the verbal earnest beckons you into the rest of the disc.
Surreal’s production on ‘Roll Up Your Sleeves’ is very Dr Dre. The whole times are tough, you gotta work hard thing this song has going on is nothing new. Yet, keeping the Dre comparison going, Real has this individual yet approachable way of spitting, similar to several of the better MCs Dre took under his wing. But in contrast he doesn’t seem to be a victim of an onstage ego he cannot live up to in his everyday life. Real life. Real is the same guy on stage, in the studio, in the park, in the club, at his Grans… There is no abrasive weapon yielding fascist front. Real comes across as welcoming, open and affable.
Even when rappers are attempting to defend women. Misogyny and a complete disregard for women in hip hop is something people have come to expect and accept. I dissected this disc with an electron microscope and a needle, and found nothing. Not a blot of misogyny anywhere. At all. And anyone who knows their hip hop will agree that this makes Real Life, as a modern American rapper; somewhat prodigious.
“Good Times” is a feel good reminiscing song. It allows us to learn a bit more about Real and just chill with a satisfied smile. Back in the day… The old school appreciation is obvious within all his music. The I know you gonna dig this old school samples add to the old school effect. As does the bloc party style spitting in unison as Real is joined by the well matched Mr Civil. It is evident much of Real Life’s soul remains in the 70s. It is hanging on while still remaining in touch with his present state of mind. Arms outstretched but fingers nowhere near losing grip.
“Ride – A – Long” is the kind of track you’ll want to play to your mates, your siblings and perhaps even your folks. While old school hip hop brought us ‘911 Is A Joke’ and ‘Fuck The Police’, Real Life brings us a self assessing cop narrative that rips the police canteen culture and egotistical apathetic attitude to pieces. All I do is cruise and control, it feels so good to feel so in control. We’re left with nothing but basement drums and throat deep guitars that will make you hit replay.
“In One Ear” gets our attention straight off, with the beat absent intro – Everywhere I go I hear ‘beat me, beat me’. All these idiots talking about ‘you can’t defeat me’. To break down the ideas behind this track in the best way possible you need the words of DJ Kool Herc – To me, hip hop says, “come” as you are… It is not about me being better than you or you being better than me. It’s about you and me, connecting one to one. Battles are not fights. Whether you’re breakin’, rapping, scratchin’, beatboxin’… whatever. Hip hop battles have a purpose, we’ve all heard it before, but we forget it on the battle floor, where it is the most important – Peace, unity, knowledge and having fun.
Real Life is a satirical mastermind. He effortlessly glides over beats like he was born in a boom box. He does not try to collapse, confuse or confine real life in order to create an impact. He drags you into his lines without even needing to touch you. He makes you comfortable, offers you something elite and untainted; while still paying homage to the roots and the foundations of what hip hop is. He is not just keeping it real. He is keeping it right.