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Wordsmith, 'The Blue Collar Recital' (NU Revolution Entertainment)( Handout )
RATING: ** out of 4
Rap was first built on bragging about being the best and having the best. The veteran Baltimore rapper Wordsmith brags a different kind of way.
"Never hear a curse, play this in your crib / You can play it around your kids, to your neighbors, where you live," Wordsmith raps on "When in Doubt Give It Your Best."
Wordsmith, born Anthony Parker, is a dying -- or at least an increasingly ignored -- breed of MC. He frequently raps about positivity and the lack of it in mainstream hip-hop, and on his recently released third album, "The Blue Collar Recital," the 33-year-old rapper continues down a similar path with mixed results.
As a rapper, Wordsmith is technically efficient but rarely shows flashes of intricate wordplay or memorable turns of phrase. On "Recital," he too often preaches a message many might agree with but won't give a chance because of its public service announcement attitude.
When Wordsmith pauses from the numbingly positive ("When Your Faith Is Tested," "My Brilliance Shines"), he's much more effective. On "Living Life Check to Check," he offers charming glimpses of self-deprecation ("10 hours of driving, arriving so soon / The way I hit the stage you'd never know it was an empty room"). The best song here, by a wide margin, is "Traffic Jammin'," an ode to blasting rap in the car as an escape. Wordsmith, throughout most of the album, seems so preoccupied with changing the world for the better that "Traffic Jammin'" comes as a welcome respite.
As a father of two and full-time government contractor, the hard-working, non-swearing Anthony Parker seems to possess qualities a role model should have. (He often recorded tracks for the album in his bedroom after a long day of work and putting the kids to bed.) But as Wordsmith, he makes the mistake of using morality as the main pillar to "Recital," and the album suffers because of it. -- Wesley Case