new discs by Toki Wright and Desdamona
by DWIGHT HOBBES
If Hip-Hip hero Toki Wright don’t know nothin’ else, he certainly knows how to whet his audience’s appetite. He dropped the word a year or so ago that on its way was A Different Mirror, and, in the meantime, he released the seven-song EP, Low Budget High Quality 2.0, to tide fans over—which, on the strength of some very strong cuts, did quite nicely. Now, here it is a while later. Wright is still threatening to throw down with A Different Mirror. And still setting the stage.
This time around it’s with eight cuts off the killer disc Low Budget High Quality 3.0 Meal Plan. And I’ll tell you something: A Different Mirror better be da bomb’s mama if it’s gonna top this. Tracks, by the by, were recorded over the last year in the U.S. and in Africa, each with its own background story. “Kyendi Kendi,” produced by Katrah Quey and performed with Sylvester and Abramz, was done in Uganda while Wright was in the midst of organizing an after-school program for formerly abducted child soldiers. “Chi-Town to My Town,” with Benzilla (who did most of the disc) producing, was written while driving back from a free performance in a low-income community on Chicago’s South Side. Oh, did I forget to mention that Toki Wright doesn’t just go through the motions of being about the people? That he lives it? He was the fella spearheading last year’s Yo The Movement, helping youngsters to a positive Hip-Hop experience while assholian, Don-Imus predecessors at KQRS ran the project down, slamming it with racist stereotypes and laughing their narrow-minded behinds off in the process.
Anyway, back to Low Budget High Quality 3.0 Meal Plan. For anybody sitting around feeling bad for theyself because life ain’t fair, “Letter w/Nomi” is just the foot in the ass that the doctor ordered. Against an ominous backdrop of guitar and percussion comes a take-no-prisoners narrative about grabbing yourself by the back of your drawers to get busy standing on your own two feet. “Future Shock” is another about stepping out your way and getting on the good foot—done to a head-bopping, funk-nasty turn. All the cuts admirably showcase Wright via his trademark delivery—inventive, wizened and shot straight from the hip. Low Budget High Quality 3.0 Meal Plan will keep the clamoring at bay. Sooner or later, though, Toki Wright is gonna have to get up off A Different Mirror. When he does, all hell probably will break loose.
It took a bit longer than expected, but Desdamona has followed up quite well on the full-blown success of her independent album, The Ledge, with The Source on FS Music (it was going to be called Hymn To The Human Spirit but some rocket scientist of a consultant decided that had religious overtones to it).
Strong as The Ledge was, the Ann-Margret of Hip-Hop has come through again, dropping an even more impressive album. There’s a continuity that just flows over you, engaging the ear, holding your attention and, ultimately, flat-out putting you away. Heads up on the retake of “Faulty Fuses” from her first album, on the cut “Hymn To The Human Spirit” (at least they didn’t re-title that) and my favorites, “Orange & Blue” and “Mellow Blue.” The one has that sweet urban sass to it as she croons about some lover who makes Casanova sound like a eunuch. The other is a page out of Sade’s book, a jazz-tinged ballad reminiscing about romance that will have you reaching for the replay button the second it’s over. The New Congress and legendary producing team Sly & Robbie have to get a nod for their part in spicing up the flava. But—would you believe?—they could not have done it without the distinct artistry of one Desdamona.