There have been many eras in Hip Hop, but none as forgotten as the Nubian era, which was characterized by a heightened sense of knowledge of self and anti-oppressive forces that be. The ironic commercial appeal of empowering groups like Public Enemy or Brand Nubian eventually morphed into the current era where “rap” has become a business move/career choice rather than a voice of the underdog filled with subversive talking points that rival university lectures.
This is what I found so intriguing about the new project Black Rome by Dough the Freshkid — representing Crenshaw, California. The follow up to his free tape Six Shots and released via his independent label Every Penny Count, the 15-song effort is a blend of vibes, ranging from an early millennium G-Unit mixtape structure (see the chorus on “Cookin’”), 90s east coast soundscapes (see “We Rich” with its scratch hook), to deeply reflective contextual content aimed at giving opposing viewpoints to widely accepted “fact.”
An example of this is the title track, which focuses on the idea that a false image of “white Jesus” was shaped by artist Leonardo DaVinci. Its execution is reminiscent of similar records, such as “Why Is That” by BDP and “Nature Of The Threat” by Ras Kass. This song could literally be transcribed into an incredibly compelling University level essay.
Elsewhere on the record, he traverses themes such as the (historical) political and social-economic climate in the United States (see “God’s Curse” verse two) to gang life in LA. Nothing is ever glorified, and everything comes off as methodically thoughtful. On the track “I See He Blued Up,” he addresses industry Crippin,’ as well as unnecessary killing in the streets. “Man up, out the choppas down and out your hands up,” he raps, pointing to the glorification of needless gun violence.
Some of the standouts include the gorgeous instrumental that rides with the top down on “Palm Trees II” featuring Tropic626— which I found myself revisiting quite a few times this week — and the unspoken dopeness of “Still Arlington (1994)” which featured Wee Dogg.
“I never promote crack in my raps, I only promote facts in my raps,” he implores as the project comes to a close with the dramatically honest, autobiographical “Sincerely Me.” Even at its most informative and reflective, Dough manages to make this project an incredibly digestible gem packed with lots of wisdom and great talking points. Worth a spot on your end of year playlist if you’re looking for some undeniable fire that is still creeping under the radar.