For better or worse, Kanye West and Drake’s successes have made it acceptable, even popular, for rappers to experiment widely with electro-pop sounds and to be more open about their emotions. A number of artists have been affixed with the emo-rap stamp in a genre that has for decades swayed towards hyper-masculinity and braggadocio over openness and being artsy. For all intents and purposes, Epic Records rapper Gilbere Forte’s music falls between emo rap and the abstract, art rap that Kanye and Jay-Z’s exhibited with Watch the Throne. Forte was raised in Philadelphia, attended college and has paid dues steadily over the past few years releasing music into blogosphere. Technically, he’s not quite a novice, and his experience is evident on his Pray EP (stream/download it here), which will be accompanied by a forthcoming mini-film of the same name.
The 10-track Pray is marked by very diverse and progressive production. The execution and the overall sound will remind listeners of producer/rapper (and Kanye West protégé) Hit-Boy. There is a nice balance between bouncy dance floor anthem such as “Anigma” and the slower tracks such as “Double Cupped” and “Forever Sin” (featuring Active Child), on which Forte delves into experiences with the fairer sex.
While Forte can adjust from double-time and multisyllabic rapping to slow delivery, what can potentially hurt him is that he has yet to truly find his voice. He shows signs that he’s on his way to achieving that on “Pray,” where Forte all but snaps, bringing up walking away from a record deal yet still getting $1 million from the single “Black Chukkas.” It’s a standout track that segues nicely into “Streets Stay Crashing,” featuring a pulsating and irresistible bass line. On the other side, the EP closer “Fall For Nothing” features up-and-coming singer Nylo on the chorus, and while she executes her part well, Forte paradoxically speeds through his verses without addressing anything meaningfully.
Gilbere Forte shows a lot of promise with Pray EP, but if he is to emerge from the pack of artists that he is currently lumped with on Epic Records and elsewhere, he will need to learn how to adjust his writing process. Being able to rap fast will attract attention, but to keep that attention, Forte needs to realize that poetry is still a rapper’s forte.