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- Published on Monday, 22 October 2012 08:42
- Category: More About Music
BigMo's second mixtape, The Nomadic 2, contains a diverse selection of sounds - songs that contain smooth, pop hooks that would be welcome by radio audiences. There are also songs with a socially conscious taste. The album is at once capable of incredible softness (see "Time to Talk," which features some nicely integrated vocal refrains from Claire Heacock) and some blunter songs, both in topic and sound. The second song, "Nomad," is full of political zingers like "I'mma be your prophet/from you I will profit like King James did The Bible," but is followed a few songs later by the contemplative "Elevator Music," which provides a clever take on heartbreak and relationship dramas ("So sick of looking at the back of your neck/I just wanna say hello/in one ear, out the other, there you go/I went like elevator music/hear me everyday, you just got used to it"). The Nomadic 2 does not, of course, forget to include that self-referential lyrical braggadocio that makes hip-hop what it is: eternally youthful, always on the counter-attack ("Try to keep up with it/my combo syllables and verse/so vicious").
In an artist profile here on Aslan Media in June, BigMo listed eight songs he found influential in his work, from Kanye's "All Falls Down" to Omar Offendum's "Destiny." The range of approaches present in the songs he chose matches well the range present in his work in The Nomadic 2. He listed a Lauryn Hill song because of the emotional connection it was able to forge with those who listened: an influence spotted in songs like "Time to Talk," which embodies that personal, torch song bittersweetness that lots of pop music thrives on. He also comments that "we tend to forget that hip-hop is poetry," and the thought clearly behind his word choices and phrases throughout The Nomadic 2, are evidence of his efforts to remind us of the poetics and aesthetics of the genre.
Arab diaspora rap frequently makes use of the rebel without a place motif: discussing the difficulties of Arab diaspora identity as caught between east and west, never really belonging to either. The nomad concept is incredibly pivotal, both to this mixtape and to BigMo's body of work and performance identity as a whole. "The Nomadic" refers to BigMo himself, who specializes in having lots of pins on his map, belonging to Jackson, Mississippi and Kaifan, Kuwait, to Portland, Oregon and to the United Arab Emirates. On his Facebook page, BigMo (whose real name is Mohammed Alkhadher) lists Omar Offendum as one of his influences, an influence particularly seen in the politics of "Nomad" and "Up's & Down's" which put a poetic twist on the politics and experiences of Arab-American lives, and express the complexities of being torn between East and West. The nomad theme is one that has also been used by Omar Offendum, whose early musical presence was as part of duo known as The N.O.M.A.D.S., or Notoriously Offensive Male Arabs Discussing Shit. By participating in and extending that discussion being had in Arab diaspora hip-hop, BigMo reminds listeners, as he raps in "Up's & Down's," "this ain't just music, this is a movement."
Music writer and blogger Jonathan Bradley wrote a commentary about political pop songs on his Tumblr recently, and while BigMo is not writing pop songs, he did pen an album full of songs that combine the efforts of social consciousness with some of the sounds and emotional connections to audience that make pop music successful. Bradley wrote, "Most political songs don't do what pop music is good for. Music is good for making us feel things and sustaining communities." Bradley's right, but BigMo, along with some of the other Arab diaspora artists like Offendum and The Narcicyst, is capable of creating a musical work that has the power to "make us feel things" with those emotional connections and to invite us to action and to political consciousness, all the while taking part in sustaining the Arab diaspora community.
One of the genuinely pleasing elements of BigMo's second album is its independence from pattern - it doesn't sound exactly like any other rapper's rhymes out there, and it isn't meant to. It's a true success to be able to be openly influenced by the likes of Kanye or Omar Offendum without becoming a mimic or a codependent musical tribute. In hip-hop, a genre that takes particular pride in sampling and being influenced by the pantheon of rappers, both the progenitors and the contemporaries, the ability to pull this off is crucial to survival. You have to be a part of the long conversation that has been hip-hop since its rocky genesis, but you have to bring something new when you join, which is what BigMo does here. He contributes to an ongoing narrative in hip-hop about the nature of Arab-American identity while expanding into the more traditional pop music emotional terrains, without tarnishing the quality of either by placing them alongside one another.
This album is available for download (for free), along with his first, on Bandcamp. Alkhadher is also an occasional contributor to Aslan Media.By Torie Rose DeGhett, Aslan Media Contributing Writer