R.A.P. Ferreira – The Light Emitting Diamond Cutter Scriptures

There’s something tricky about writing end-of-the-year lists. If you do it too late, the thrill of reading lists and comparing them to your own experience is gone and nobody cares. We’ve already moved on to next year. If you do it too early, you run the risk of missing something incredible that would undoubtedly change your rankings. Personally, I’m somewhat indecisive when it comes to making these lists and usually end up completing them sometime in February, long after the conversation is done and anyone could be reasonably expected to care.

However, this year I was asked by Tuned Up to give my top 15 albums of the year by November 21st with a week to revise. This was a totally reasonable request. I had it all ironed out and submitted and felt confident enough with what I had offered. And then on Friday November 26, R.A.P. Ferreira released The Light Emitting Diamond Cutter Scripture just under the wire. I knew on first listen I was going to have some revising to do. Sigh.

Nashville artist Rory Ferreira, aka R.A.P. Ferreira (fka Milo, fka Scallops Hotel), has already released a stellar album earlier this year, Bob’s Son and apparently wanted to prove that lighting can strike twice. According the description on his website soulfolks.org:

“during the first of my 15 year exile in the city of gnashville, the light emitting diamond cutter scriptures revealed themselves to i. eleven concise chapters of pure will with no dilution. these scrolls were time tested during the roughest of waters. when the monk relinquishes all things, all baggages, all material goods, all styles, all names, all containers, all ideas to become a shimmering effusion.”

The Light Emitting Diamond Cutter Scriptures is the finest blend of jazz and poetry that hip-hop heads could hope for to cap off what has been a long and dreary year. The music evokes smoky, purple-lit jazz clubs at 3 AM, stream-of-conscious conversations held loosely along with a half-empty glass of rye on the rocks. The beats lean more into the vibe of speakeasies and noire films than the mashup of boom-bap and jazz-hop that has made a resurgence recently (no disrespect to that style either). It’s a compellingly layered sound that is unique even in the indie rap world.

Ferreira’s flow is thoughtful, steady, and methodical. His voice is clear and articulate and at times his style borders on slam poetry. His vocabulary is expansive and syllabically subscribes to the idea that more is more. “My overzealousness is ambidextrous”(“Gemilut Hashadim”). At times you need a dictionary on hand to translate the lines, and even then the meaning isn’t immediately apparent. “Keymasters need gatekeepers, a rapper’s more than they sneakers”(“Praise and Worship”).  But even just the sound of the words playing off of one another is beautiful, and I suspect that’s at least some of the reason Ferreira chooses the phrasing he does.

As the lyrics are crafted with care, the rhymes themselves get an equal measure of attention. Verses are composed of strung together couplets, and he leans heavily into internal rhyme. “I was born a weirdo, never fear tho”(“Brother Mozouno Library Card”).

There’s so much to listen for with the interplay of words and beats, the creative uses of metaphor and simile, and the deep cut references (“Nature boy, like Ansel Adams”-“East Nashville”), subsequent spins of each track reward the listener with new experiences. 

I was already in love with this album when I realized that one of the standout cuts, “Brother Mozoune Library Card” is a reference to a character from The Wire (one of my favorite TV shows and arguably the best dramatic TV show ever created). But it’s not just a throwaway reference for nostalgic suckers. The track stands as the centerpiece for the album’s various themes, which are drawn to a fitting conclusion in “Hot Bref” (more on that in a second). In The Wire, Brother Mouzone is an intelligent, dapper, bespectacled assassin hired to kill Omar, a lone wolf who makes his money robbing drug dealers. Brother Mouzone is self-confident, self-assured, and 100% terrifying. He is altogether different than the Baltimore drug dealers who hire him, and yet in many ways he’s more dangerous. Often found reading a book, one of his signature quotes is “You know what the most dangerous thing in America is right?   N***** with a library card.” (He’s black, just to clarify). So on “BMLC” R.A.P. Ferreira places himself in the group of black men who are dangerous because they are educated and articulate. “Flow courtesy of Brother Mozoune library card.”

This theme of a black man standing taller than the world allows weaves its way throughout the album, concluding with the track “Hot Bref.” On the bridge, Ferreira samples Scatman Carother’s “Coonskin No More” from the 1975 animated film “Coonskin,” whose main characters (black fox, bear, and rabbit) stand in as racist caricatures to expose the way that media depicts black life and culture. In the original song Carothers sings, “I got the Devil in me, can’t you see.” Ferreira claps back at racism in pop culture, turning the phrase on its head and challenging prejudicial beliefs.

“I’m the minstrel man, I’m the cleanin’ man, I’m the poor man, I’m the shoeshine man, I’m a n* man, watch me then, I got God in me, can’t you see, I got God in me, can’t you see, I got God in me, can’t you see, I’m a n* man.”

These lines serve as a powerful denouement to the album, and even though without the background information “I got God in me, can’t you see” sounds like a couplet that Kanye would’ve written, Feirrera is infinitely more sincere than any of the God-peddling that Ye has done in the last several albums.

So the lesson here is, don’t count out 2021 yet for solid artistry. If you have any room left in your end-of-the-year lists, R.A.P. Ferreira will earn a spot. Or, if your list is locked down but you’re willing to give something else a chance, be sure to spin R.A.P. Ferreira’s The Light Emitting Diamond Cutter Scriptures. You can check it out on all streaming platforms and connect with R.A.P. Ferreira on Bandcamp and Twitter.

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