People get antsy, if not downright angry, when they can’t easily categorize an artist. Gilbere Forte’ has those people close to crawling out of their skins.
The Philadelphia-based rapper (singer, songwriter, producer) realizes this, devoting a post on his blog to the questions surrounding him. “Who am I? Where did I come from? What lane is he trying to be in?” he writes.
Early last year, he dropped the single “Black Chukkas,” an unsettlingly off-kilter record that sounds like the soundtrack of a movie montage that comes right before the inevitable things-fall-apart scene. In other words, a sort of updated, early ‘90s, New York hip-hop track. The underground buzz began in earnest.
But six or so months ago, he released 87 Dreams, which sounds like the young musician flipped through his catalog of influences and made a few songs for each—a few songs dedicated to sad indie rock bands’ ballads, a couple to sexed-up slow jamz, a song to Phil Collins’ “Take Me Home.” Makes sense that people are thoroughly confused.
Eyes of Veritas, his latest mixtape, won’t clear up much other than the fact that Forte’ is comfortable resisting categorization. Though he gets a little help from big names like Lex Luger (trying his hardest to prove he doesn’t just do the “B.M.F.” beat over and over) and Drake’s secondhand man Boi-1da, he and his partner Raak do much of the production themselves.
The result takes repeat listens to appreciate. With a few exceptions, like “We Do This,” the beats aren’t as immediately digestible as those on most hip-hop mixtapes. But that seems to be the point—this isn’t just a tape for already fervent disciples of hip hop (who nonetheless will be drawn to songs like “What They Talkin’ Bout” and “Born in 87”). It’s an effort to not only expand those listeners’ minds, but also gather a new audience who thinks hip hop’s only about that little drummer boy beat.
The cover of Eyes of Veritas is lit so that when you tilt it, Forte’s face disappears, leaving only his white-bright eyes. Maybe those eyes haven’t seen the full glory of the future of hip hop, but at least he’s looking that way.
See for yourself. Download Gilbere Forte’s Eyes of Veritas here.
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