By Mark Shepherd Tillman
There is undoubtedly talent to be found throughout this ten-track project, Expensive Ignorance, marking the outset of Rhawn B's musical career. To that point, perhaps the most important piece of information that could be conveyed to you in this review is that this album was engineered, written, and produced by Mr. B and him alone. Let that sink in for a minute. The significance of this accomplishment cannot be understated. In our present "Golden Age" of Hip-Hop and Rap, the challenge of drawing an audience is nearly insurmountable. In an environment permeated by phrases such as "instant classic" or "greatest ever" the life expectancy of an up-and-coming new artist's career is at an all time low.
Furthermore, it must be acknowledged that this album is a post-'To Pimp A Butterfly' release, a fact of apparent significance that will only be understood in time or may, conversely, hold little relevance at all after a few years. Right now though, today, this this is a big deal. Critic after critic has lauded the most recent work from Kendrick Lamar and how its impact has been and will be nothing short of biblical in scope. But what's the point? This echelon of universal acclaim will ultimately be followed by new and seasoned listeners alike being guided by a more critical ear. These listeners are searching for soul-baring lyrics, impeccable production and have a demand for a nearly flawless final product. Expertly and effortlessly tying together a myriad of different facets that comprise a finished album. The most impressive thing about Expensive Ignorance and Rhawn B. is that he released an album. Alone. Unlike any of our other favorite genre releases from the last five-ten years at least. Everyone else has a whole team of professionals at their back ensuring the quality of the effort. However, the determination and skill required to attain this goal has proven not to be enough. Ultimately, Mr. B. is a day late and a dollar short. Expensive Ignorance has several glaring flaws paired alongside far too few moments of success. But was the expense worth it?
Here's the breakdown: The beats are immediately catchy and full of sonic richness, though perhaps lacking in variety or significant originality. Rhawn B.'s flow is far from flawless but does contain a few gems. Lyrically, the best moments come from references to Rhawn's experience at the Los Angels Film Institute, the remaining lines feel dated and amateurish. Typically, I would take each song from a release and individually draw attention to the highs and lows within them. Here, I don't feel this is possible. While each and every song on this album would sound great blasted through expensive car speakers, there is little else to discuss about the individual tracks. Across the whole album, the message is the same lyrically. There is little to differentiate the the beats on each track, giving the feeling of them blending together. Lastly, the flow is decent at the best of times with no more than a single instance or two of any expertise on display.
Regarding the beats, this is where I hope to see Rhawn find success in his career. While this album seems almost to be built on A$AP Rocky's unused library of beats there is something to be said for how dancy every single track is on this album. Were Mr. B.'s flow and lyrics more impressive this could sincerely be a quality release. Despite the lack in variety and easy comparisons to other current artists I can certainly say I enjoyed every one of the tracks Rhawn B. used to curate his rhymes.
This is where my enjoyment of the album ends. Rhawn B. employs some of the most trite and borderline-offensive imagery I have ever encountered from an artist. Despite what I'm sure was the artist's intent, this is the ignorance that was such an expense. There is very little deviation from the all-too-common themes of asserting superiority over one's piers and antagonists. The only time this trend is broken is on "Vibe Right" which finds itself coming across as misogynistic at best and even Cosbyesque to a degree. Again, the timing here doesn't help. But the implication of a man presenting a woman a substance of any kind to enhance intercourse harbors especially dark intentions when heard in the current social landscape. Despite the intention of the artist, this song was a pretty uncomfortable listen. As far as the flow is concerned, Rhawn B. sounds comfortable. This is not a positive quality as there is almost no instance of apparent challenge to his skills. While he makes it sound easy, it doesn't sound difficult.
Now, back to the positive. This is a talented individual, someone who took the skills they had and set out on their own to accomplish a goal or heed a calling. It's the dream to accomplish this goal. We all share it. For me, a critic, to tear down this accomplishment means nothing. Whether the artist is remembered for years to come or forgotten in a month is unimportant. Rhawn B. set out alone to make an album and succeeded. At the very worst there is only room for maturation and growth in his career.