I had the pleasure of being around The Emsee when he blazed into the Canada’s Got Talent semifinals with his YouTube audition. More than any other performer in the competition, you could practically see the fire burning inside of him. He wanted it bad, and it was incredible to watch him reach his goal of the finals. Flash forward 16 months, and I can see that that uncontrollable desire to succeed is still there, and the frustration trying to succeed is riding ride alongside it.
On his new album, Empty Promises, the rapper starts off with “No1 Knows”, which samples “Behind Blue Eyes”, and directly addresses his time on the reality show and the disappointment that it didn’t lead to greater things. It’s an extremely honest track that anyone who has been handed a setback on their way to a goal can appreciate. It’s an interesting way to open the album because it establishes that The Emsee isn’t where he wants to be yet, and he uses the rest of the album showing you why he absolutely has the talent to get there.
“Y’All Don’t See” gives a glimpse at the unglamourous life of an up-and-coming artist, “Seems To Me” addresses online haters, and “Cold Hearted” looks at a relationship gone bad. There’s a lot of extremely personal material here. Far more personal than a rapper usually goes, and it’s refreshing to hear a hip hop artist that’s willing to go beyond the swagger and cliches to something deeper. That being said, this album is still a ton of fun, like on the instant party tracks “Stick Up” and “The Warning”.
The best moments are two extremely playful songs. Sampling Peter Gabriel‘s “Down The Dolce Vita” on “Return (To The Music Biz)”, the track sounds like the rapper’s own personal anthem that he should use as his entrance music into any room. A boxer or wrestler should start using that song as their entrance song immediately. The rapper is even more fun on the cocky “Fifty Percent” where he boasts that he’s only giving half his energy on the funky track that samples Lyn Collins‘ “Take Me As I Am” (something not far from the James Brown songbook). Beyond that, how many rappers reference green tea, porridge, and Shania Twain‘s “That Don’t Impress Me Much”?
The Emsee plays with things you’ve never heard before in hip hop music and makes it work. It reminds me of the playfulness and eagerness of Kanye West‘s debut “The College Dropout”. It would be laughable if The Emsee’s talent didn’t live up to his ambition, but it does in spades. Empty Promises showcases an extremely talented and thoughtful performer that deserves to be heard. Here’s hoping more do with this great collection.
You can preview and buy the whole album here: http://the-emsee.bandcamp.com/album/empty-promises