Saturday, October 31, 2009

AV Club "On Repeat" : F. Stokes' Death Of A Handsome Bride: "Trapped inside these raggedy-ass tattoos"

On this year's Death Of A Handsome Bride, rapper F. Stokes--collaborating with producer Lazerbeak of Minneapolis' Doomtree crew--carries on the refreshing blend of street reporting and raw intellect that propelled artists like Gang Starr and Nas to stardom in the early '90s. The short album's nine tracks bounce from cautionary memoirs of coke abuse and poverty in Chicago to criticisms of hip-hop culture and destructive relationships. However, it's also tinged with the perspective that comes with overcoming a rough past and putting together a better life. That's a timely vibe for Stokes, who recently put out both Death and its remix companion F.I.L.M. (or Forever I Love Madison, featuring production from Madison DJ crew Dirty Disco Kidz), and returns yet again to his onetime hometown to open for Ghostface Killah at the Barrymore Theatre on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

On Death’s closing cut, “Too,” Stokes hits the listener a cappella with a sharp blast of poetic imagery, gathering momentum with lyrics like, “Run through plush hotels and leave with the condiments / You know, soaps and shampoos / Trapped inside these raggedy-ass tattoos / Too skinny, too fat, too black, but ain’t black enough for the black dudes.” He clicks best with Lazerbeak on the album's finest jam, "Jeremiah," spitting out couplets about the hopelessness of impoverished street life over wobbling synthesizer, warped piano, and vintage soul samples. “Fresh out the womb we got penitentiary memberships / But we just shy babies trapped in our mama’s belly / Watchin’ the world through the windows of they navels,” Stokes pleads as Lazerbeak’s witty production thumps underneath.

Over the brilliant horn-driven sampling of “Hang On,” Stokes channels Jay-Z in his prime: “Who’d ever thunk it? The kid who sold crack for dope kicks would get his opportunity and punch it through the ceiling.” But he's not keeping too tight a chokehold on the King Of Hip-Hop, considering how intensely "Sparse Parts" vents his annoyance with the hip-hop world’s obsession with superficial street cred. “If I listen to Rick Ross and Murs, can I still speak on how my dawg was left on the curb? / Or would the underground write me off as a typecast?” Stokes asks, before fuming out an answer: “Fuck y’all, I don’t gotta sell my soul for one listen.”

Stokes also knows how to hit from left field, for good and for ill. Some of the lyrics can be brutally discomforting in their realism--"So Into You" reflects on “Babies born preemies out of rotten cunts/ Spoiled milk in they bottles/ as uncles finger-fuck they nieces while they drunk.” On the other hand, Stokes launches into the first verse of "Soul Clap" with the line “I be fresh as breast milk from Oprah," which is either embarrassing and absurd or just really fucking funny. Though the tracks on Death and F.I.LM. jump all over the place in a pretty short time, Stokes’ sincere and self-conscious lyrical flow keeps him high in the ranks of Wisconsin-connected rappers. Here’s hoping he can charm a potentially tough crowd of Ghostface Killah fans at the Barrymore next Tuesday.

by Joel Shanahan for AV Club. Article Here

Tickets for Ghostface Killah w/ F. Stokes HERE

Download FILM (FOREVER I LOVE MADISON) for free here

Listen to Death Of A Handsome Bride in its entirety here

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