Reflect - For Those Who Wait...
Toronto hip-hop/rapper Reflect is on the rise. His 2008 debut album, Hope Wuz Here found Reflect gaining airplay on both sides of the Atlantic as well as in Australia, and sparked featured performances in Toronto and New York City. Reflect is a different style of rapper than what you hear on the radio, foregoing the glam and glitz for a much more measured approach. The chutzpah and self-serving lyrical approach are still here; just dialed down to more subtle levels. This is apparent on Reflect’s latest album, For Those Who Wait…. Reflect’s influences include 2PAC, Talib Kweli, Common and Rakim, and elements of each can be heard on the album.
For Those Who Wait… opens with “Intro – For Those Who Wait”, sounding like an admonition of absentee fathers. Reflect establishes a solid rhythm here, but the meaning may border on opaque for some. “Another Shot” asks for another opportunity, vacillating between a relationship and chasing his dreams and finding it difficult to fully pursue one without giving short shrift to the other. Here her works out the dynamics of doing both in rhyme. “Fly Away (Gotta Get Out)” is a down tempo, nearly melancholy rhyme detailing a hard life caught between poverty and drugs, expressing the eternal ideal of escape. The song gives voice to the voiceless with a deft lyrical touch without sounding sentimental. “Gonna Get ‘Em” is a song about reaching out for your dreams the right way; rising up through the ranks with hard work and determination. Reflect refers to having “A couple of dollars and a dream”, and talks about working harder at making music than he’s worked at anything in his life. The song may be seen by some as self-serving, but it reflects a work ethic that’s a necessary component of success.
“Million Bucks” delves into the ups and downs of having big money, starting from a desire to have it to the perspective of one who had it and lost it all. Reflect has a tendency at times to tell a story from multiple perspectives in the same song, like in “Million Bucks”; this tendency arises again in “Lost And Found”. “Lost And Found” parallels the giddy love of finding the right woman with the utter despair of losing her. “What Do I Do” is perhaps the most difficult listen on “For Those Who Wait…” Reflect discusses the evil that some men (pimps, abusers) commit against women in a well thought out diatribe. Unfortunately his vocals on the chorus are almost painfully atonal. Reflect heads for cliché on “Superman”, singing to his own Lois Lane in a self-serving love song that finds Reflect putting himself on a pedestal rather than the one he’s singing to.
“Worked Over By A Lady” finds Reflect lamenting a friend whose heart was broken, laying it entirely at the feet of the woman who walked away. The song is well-written yet overly one-sided in perspective and might be taken for being mildly misogynistic. “Lovin’ Me Lately” is a slow jam for the twenty-first century with a solid groove. Reflect doesn’t leave much to the imagination, eschewing the suggestive innuendo Isaac Hayes for fully descriptive lyrics that might classify as erotica. For Those Who Wait… closes with “Moonwalker”, a tribute to Michael Jackson from the perspective of a kid who used to try to copy the moonwalk who is now an artist himself because of the influence. The lyrics border on trite, and Reflect puts Jackson amidst an interesting pantheon of artists that includes Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, Biggie, 2Pac, Aaliyah, Isaac Hayes, James Brown and John Lennon. Nevertheless it’s a touching tribute fitting of the self-styled King of Pop.
Reflect’s delivery is a bit bland at times, but his lyrical style shows the influence of artists such as Common and Rakim. Reflect is a cognitive rapper, spinning generally well thought-out lyrics that give voice to emotions, moments and people who might not find their own voice, and does so without relying on destructive or offensive language. For Those Who Wait… probably doesn’t slot well with popular urban radio, but will appeal to those who remember a time when rappers got by on their wits more so than on reputations or street cred. For Those Who Wait… is the real deal, and what Reflect may lack in flash he more than makes up for in his rhymes.
Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)