GOLDEN-AGE HIPHOP FOR THE NEW MILLENNIUM
Labtekwon might have best described his work as "the opposite of Tupac." Lab does it old school, equally likely to name-check Marcus Garvey, reference ancient Kemetic literature, allude to Christian faith, or call attention to his burgeoning skills. Knowledge reigns supreme. And it all starts in Baltimore.
"This place has a little bit of everything," says Labtekwon. "Baltimore has a rich history for the art and entertainment. [It's] the northernmost city of the South and the southernmost city of the North. Historically, Baltimore was the first city on the Chitlin Circuit. The Chitlin Circuit was the only option for touring for Black entertainers when Jim Crow and segregation still ruled in America, so Baltimore has always been considered somewhat of a Mecca for music and the arts. Its was said that if you could make it in Baltimore as a musician, you can make it anywhere. I love it here, and sometimes I can't stand it, but it's my home."
Born in Los Angeles, Labtekwon has spent time in Atlanta, but his eight solo releases since 1993 have all been for B-More's eclectic soul label Ankh Ba Records. The new release Song of the Sovereign collects the best cuts from those LPs for National distribution on rising underground label Mush Records. Instantly memorable, the anthology mixes the raw energy of free styling and refined grace of writing. Producer Professor Mineblo's dubbed-out, jazz-sourced tracks evoke Mos Def. Tribe Called Quest, and Gang Starr.
On disc, the emcee emerges as introspective and articulate. And if those qualities aren't the most marketable traits in today's hip-hop, Lab still has what it takes. On stage, he transforms into something closer to a proforma phenom.
"If you listen to the album you can really get the lyrics, because you can rewind it," he says. "On stage you can see how really sexy I am. On stage, I can interact with the audience -- and that is true hip-hop culture."