“Dollar Out of Fifteen Cents” is the latest musical offering from Wordslave, a.k.a. Rahsaan Eldridge. Wordslave is also known to audiences as a vocalist with Kelly Bell Band and as one half of the duo Axiom, with lyricist Black Root, a.k.a. Jamaal Collier. The seven tracks on “Dollar Out of Fifteen Cents” are a smooth blend of hip hop and soul. Wordslave’s vocals have always been deeply steeped in the classic soul/old school gospel tradition – in fact I’ve often found earlier versions of his vocals to be a bit heavy-handed in leaning on those influences. But over time, Wordslave has stretched himself tremendously as a vocalist, becoming a much more polished and versatile singer. He also stretched lyrically as well, and is able to write smooth lines to get the ladies as effectively as knock out hip hop punchlines.
This is especially useful on the “Dollar Out of Fifteen Cents” project, because he moves between singing and rapping much more fluidly than he has in the past. The project was recorded in several studios, with most of the production coming from Street Radio out of New York. While the first five tracks offer totally original music, the last two tracks, “Breezin’” and ”What’s Going On (Part Two)” are actually Wordslave’s take on the classic soul songs by George Benson and Marvin Gaye respectively (“What’s Going On Part Two” actually blends “What’s Going On” with another Gaye track, “After The Dance”.) These two tracks give Word the chance to wax poetic about love, loss, ambition and hope. His spoken word influences are most prominently displayed in these two track, and both manage to stop just at the point where they might have become preachy.
Wordslave’s decision to bring in production from outside the typical Baltimore circle of producers was an extremely wise one. It brought a freshness to his sound that was really necessary at this point in his music career – not hearing what I expected to hear from him made me listen even more closely. There are new depths and layers present in this project, and I enjoyed hearing them. While Word’s lyrics and rapping are extremely solid, his singing is still his strongest talent, as track three “Give You The World” clearly demonstrates. It is a lush, full, luxurious sounding track that his voice sinks into and accentuates perfectly.
On the hip hop side of his musical self, I enjoyed track one, the title track “Dollar Out of Fifteen Cents” the most. It is a mid tempo song that has a lot of bounce and movement. I especially enjoyed how Word used his vocals to engage the music – his voice rises, falls, speeds up, slows down, and is generally expressive in a way that makes the track even more effective, which is a nice change from the monotone you often get from rappers when they aren’t yelling at the top of their lungs. And best of all, when he sings the hook on his rap songs, you don’t mind because he can actually sing. Track four, “World Keeps Spinning” is an ambitious track with a huge sounding, expansive track balancing Word at his hardest hitting lyrically. It also has a great deal of forward movement musically, almost as if the track were marching along to Word’s voice.
“Dollar Out of Fifteen Cents” was a good musical and lyrical experience overall. It definitely has “old school” aesthetics in its sound, but thanks to Wordslave’s artistic versatility, the old school wasn’t dull, boring or stale. Best of all, the project does leave a good feeling with you – a kind of hopeful feeling. The release of Dollar out of Fifteen Cents will coincide with a show at Soulful Emergence Art Gallery, located at 2107 North Charles Street on November 15th. CD’s will be available for purchase there, and for more information on the show visit www.wordslave.eventbrite.com.