“You’re probably asking yourselves what that title means… First of all, I’d say that’s my motto in life, always on the quest for self-improvement… And while working on myself, tryin’ to make the people around me better… I mean, what’s the point in being lonely at the top, right?”
Aspire to Inspire, released June 2014, is Mississauga, Ont., MC Es’s (née Eseme Elango) second solo album and belongs in any true-fan-of-hip-hop-music’s library; And that’s not because of some lame hipster duty to know all things obscure, but because of banging beats, lyrics that actually mean something, poetry musical enough to make heads nod when rocked a capella and, most importantly, a sincere desire to inspire all to be their best and achieve success in this life and the next.
Authentic conscious with an introspective twist, this album is a ‘90s shout-out with positive vibes that radiate from a spiritual core. The quote at the top of this paragraph taken from the unrehearsed ‘Aspire to Inspire Intro‘, thesis of the album; a testament to where Es’s heart is at, if you will. There are no drugs, strippers, or bunches of words strung together that mean absolutely nothing over beats that all sound exactly the same. Aspire to Inspire is positive reinforcement, questions that demand reflection, and some tough love – without getting corny or preachy. Don’t. Get it. Twisted. Aspire to Inspire‘s got raw rhymes and rugged beats assembled by a team of talented producers and does Toronto’s underground proud.
The aforementioned ‘Intro’ sets the lyrical tone as Es talks mission statements, society, bigs up his family, his musical mentors (KRS-One, Nas, Tribe, Pete Rock, etc., etc.), while someone, either producer NRJ or an artiste on a sample, is getting jazzy on the keys.
‘Grown Man’ is a sonic snapshot of Es, from birth to youth to love to marriage, while ‘Wish You Were Looking For’ features Toronto rap-pro Mathematik and a slice of synthesizer love.
‘New Day’ is Es on staying positive and moving forward over a sick sample worked by Kiza Beats. ‘For the Loot’ is self-explanatory and Es puts it this way, “it’s more than dollars and cents / Man, it’s a sense of belonging when you long for success / By any means necessary justified by the ends”.
‘The Good Fight’ lists almost every thing humans fight for and makes listeners think about what it is they fight for, while ‘Keep it Movin’ is some of that tough love alluded to earlier over a melodic Euphonic production. ‘Love’ is a love letter from Es to wifey, and ‘Moment of Weakness’ is Es encouraging us through our various troubled times over a laid-back ’80s track.
‘Uninspired’ is battle rap over I. Khan going Dilla on the beat (and why not, he’s still one of the best ever may he R.I.P.). And finally, ‘Aspire to Inspire’: “Driven… by the notion of uplifting my community / Lifted at the hope that unity can one day prove to be / Inspiring, for the beasts inside of life’s lions den / Inspire self, then inspire them…”. ‘Nuff said.
I can’t pick a favourite track, but the fact that the album’s title track is not its far-and-away best is a great sign. I will say this: since downloading Aspire for only $3 (that’s right, so get it now http://esmuzik.bandcamp.com/album/aspire-to-inspire), ‘Grown Man’, ‘Wish You Were Looking For’, ‘New Day’, ‘The Good Fight’, ‘Uninspired’, and, of course, ‘Aspire to Inspire’, have worn out my speaker cones and neck muscles.