Lyricism seems to have all but disappeared from the current state of hip-hop. For Trinidad-born, New Orleans-bred rhymesmith Truth Universal, mastery of the mic lies at the core of his recent EP Guerrilla Business, a follow up to his 2008 full-length Self Determination. It’s also a blueprint for his socially conscious, street-tempered method, which he terms “Guerrilla Music.” On “Stateside to Worldwide,” he spits, “Now who puts it down like this / If guerrillas had a theme it would sound like this / What people callin’ hip-hop it just astonishes me / This ain’t the karaoke lip-sync you commonly see.”
Scrappy rapper Skipp Coon and producer Mr. Nick help usher in this rhyme session while throughout, a wide range of ace underground producers provide the soundtrack. The menacingly atmospheric Wu Tang-meets-Dirty South stamp of New Orleans beatmaster N.O. Bricks—employed on four tracks—gives the album a sonic edge.
Like the unheralded Wu alum Inspectah Deck, Truth Universal packs a hard-hitting flow and is a pro at deconstructing the urban landscape. Guerrilla Business’ centerpiece, “The Grassroots Campaign,” is filled with lyrical bombs set off atop an incendiary chorus. But not every track is a full-on battle cry. Over the syncopated soul-funk of the DJ Maxmillion-produced gem “International,” TU spouts quick-witted quips like “Intent to be the illest while I’m making these records / But still moonlighting like Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepard.”
For over a decade, Truth Universal has shunned the status quo, adhering to his own standards as he climbed the ranks. He echoes these sentiments on Guerrilla Business’ lead single “This Moment,” which features fellow NOLA heavyweight Lyrikill. Consider the words to the retro-swathed banger “The Spook Who Sat by the Door” a testament to TU’s ethic: “Demolish any mic I was given to rip / Scripts that liberate I was risen to spit.” Emcee certified.