Black and Read All Over continues the string of positive, incisive and, yes, poetic hip-hop that Sareem Poems has been generating since 2008’s Blooming Sounds. The former L.A. Symphony crew member has already had such success from this record, released in the fall, that an all-instrumental remix set of each of the 14 tunes here is going to be available soon as a digital download.
Sareem Poems, backed by bass-heavy beats and smart grooves, raps about hope and aspiration. Poems is not afraid of being honest, vulnerable or intelligent. “Enter” comes along as an opener like a ’70s funk film take, a groove that is most explicit on the J5-ish “Tell It.” A nod to other ’70s legends, Funkadelic, is apparent in the hip choir party jam of “Lower The Boom.” But Poems’ beats are not retro. Gard gangsta beats and soulful mixes alike abound in tunes like “Shake It Up” and “Impossible.”
As much as the production varies in tone, it is the message that means the most. Lines leap out of almost every track: “I’m surrounded by winners on a losing streak”: “A revolution has nothing to do with guns”: “Stop sleeping on reality and stay awake.” “Impossible,” “Go Ahead” and the compassionate “Windows” are calls for hope and strength, to battle the darkness with dreams and smart choices. This is never preachy, however. In fact, the call to celebrate life is often as sexy as it is smart.
Sareem Poems is not daring for being honest and intelligent; Black and Read All Over just seems that way because few in popular music are actually addressing real life. This is a heartfelt but ballsy celebration of life, and of a future that might not come but that should be worked for nevertheless.