WALKING THE LINE
By Sporadic “The Dark Poet”
Reviewed By Jorge Antonio Vallejos
Canadian Hip Hop has a bad rap! (pun intended.)
How many Canadian artists get no airplay and no respect? The list is too long for this review.
It can be argued that Drake is Canadian and he’s top five. No doubt, that is true. But most people don’t see Drake as Canadian. Shad, a native of Brampton, Ontario is making waves but he has not reached the heights of his contemporaries who contrast his positive message.
I remember joyriding with my crew as a teen while listening to Biggie, Scarface, Snoop, and the Rascalz. No matter what ride we grabbed our trusted mixed tapes came with us and the Rascalz got play everyday, several times a day. If you’re thinking “the Rascalz?” to yourself they were a top Canadian Hip Hop group from Vancouver in the 1990s and the early millennium. Their track Really Livin’ is a classic! A bad boy tune for real.
Before the Rascalz made it big in Canada it was Canadian Hip Hop’s Godfather Maestro Fresh Wes who everyone was listening to. MCs starting popping up after him, some getting a rep, others overlooked, and the latter is the common case today. One such artist is Sporadic “The Dark Poet”. His second album appropriately titled Walking The Line is comprised of 15 songs that will keep you bobbing your head. But am I the only one listening?
Walking The Line’s cover depicts Sporadic in front of a mic. He’s got an intense look that matches his lyrics. Although a young man, Sporadic’s beard shows his life experience and wisdom that flows from his lips: “I get more pumped than classic Reebok’s.” True poetry from a man that has seen the running shoe turn from a necessity to style to scientific experiment.
Sporadic, not only a poet, but also an entrepreneur, reveals himself on the mic:
“I want to make money like the government can,
stop working for the man.”
All artists want this. It’s the dream being chased by those willing to sit and write and later stand in front of a mic. But not all artists have the will and skill that Sporadic does. Real artists are influenced by their contemporaries, those that have come before them, and artists that are not in the same field as them. Sporadic, a young Black man, pays tribute to the men that paved the way for him via different genres and arts:
“Rugged smooth talk,
similar to Cassius Clay,
words serenade the mic,
a la Marvin Gaye.”
Like many peoples of colour, there are no real role models for them today. We have to look to the past. Sporadic knows and shows the teaching, “In order to know who you are you have to know where you come from.”
In Foundation Sporadic shares his life of hunger and being a byproduct of crime, doing time and paying his dues on Jane street. All artists have a story that fuels their expression. How many have a foundation they recognize, respect, and remember? Sporadic cleverly shares wisdom after having his listeners relate to images he plants in their heads through a catchy chorus:
“Foundation, recognizing your block,
Foundation, throwing up a tag on the spot,
Foundation, chilling with your crew drinking brews
Freestyling under the light of the moon paying dues,
Foundation, something you got to have
If you want to have a plan then
You got to be the plan.”
Part of achieving the success one attains in life is by surrounding oneself with positive people. Sporadic, true to his name, has both positive and negative people on his album. While sharing sound advice with his audience, he strays off on homophobic and sexist tangents that are backed by one of his guest rappers.
In Triple Threat guest artist Scripts aka Sweats is appropriately introduced with, “I fucking hate that guy.” Fat phobia, sexism, misogyny, all come out of Scripts mouth without him thinking twice or breaking a sweat: “Even big girls get these nuts on their double chin.” He later says,
One of a kind,
So, na we aint the same type.”
We already enough white rappers trying to prove themselves by putting others down. Eminem has reached top five status for acting like an asshole and rhyming violently about women and queer folk.
Although including such oppressive rhymes in Walking The Line, Sporadic show his true feeling for women and his true skill in three love songs: Crush, Love Revisited, and Love Lost. There is a vulnerability displayed in the three songs that are not found anywhere else in Walking The Line. Sporadic tries to mask his exposing his feelings through a chorus but comes clean in later lyrics.
In Crush, Sporadic raps:
“This aint a love song,
get with it shorty,
this is a crush song.”
If you have to say it’s not a love song, guess what?
In the same song Sporadic raps, “Holding you tight like I’m scared to lose you,” then
“One in a million,
out of all the women I been with,
you’re the one I’m feelin’”
The hypermasculinity shown in Sporadic’s other songs tries to sneak in and cover his romantic, open, and vulnerable side with no success. You can see that the one time thug has a heart and he’s sharing it on the mic.
In Love Lost, “The Dark Poet” sheds light on how “It hurts but I’ll get over that” and shares, “I guess I never said it much.” It’s a song of regret that has good background vocals and a story that many know all too well.
The strength of Walking The Line is Sporadic’s collaboration with female rapper Candee Bunn. A modern day Bonnie and Clyde style song, the setting is a phone call from one love to another. Both artists feed off each other, there is a nice back and forth that flows like a proper pouring of a pint of Guinness: slow, rich, and full of flavour.
Love Revisited shows that female rappers hold their own, and are often better then many male rappers. Promises of faithfulness and gangster love are backed by a strong piano beat. You wish that Candee Bunn and Sporadic made more songs together or possibly and entire album.
Walking The Line has great beats, at times you feel like you’re riding around in stretched Cadillac in a Blacksploitation film. There are hints of his inlflunces throughoutt the collection; one beat being very similar to New York State of Mind by Nas.
Sporadic’s rhymes show the attention and detail he invests in his craft. After listening to Walking The Line you know Sporadic will be coming out with a third album that will be better than the first two; he is not exaggerating when rapping
“I won’t quit like a DJ in the mix,
Stick to my foundation like a heroine fix.”
Support Canadian Hip Hop! To buy a copy of Walking The Line by Sporadic, or to contact him for a show, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tune in to Black Coffee Poet Wednesday November 10, 2010 for an inclusive interview with Sporadic “The Dark Poet”.