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Raw Poetic
Laminated Skies Skye Butchard , March 28th, 2022 08:55

Aided by co-producer Damu the Fudgemunk and members of Irreversible Entanglements, North Virginia hip hop artist Raw Poetic builds up plenty of cosmic vibes on sixth album Laminated Skies, finds Skye Butchard

Laminated Skies sees Jason Moore aka Raw Poetic get by with a little help from his friends. For the sessions that make up his sixth solo album, the North Virginia hip-hop artist is surrounded by longtime confidantes and collaborators. The record uses that close familiarity to its advantage. Pat ‘P’ Fritz and Luke Stewart (of Irreversible Entanglements) take on guitar and bass, while Moore’s close creative partner Damu the Fudgemunk mans co-production, and an assortment of instruments, from vibraphone to drum samplers. Raw Poetic takes on the role of band leader. Backed with this tight-knit group of performers, he fits right in. As the nephew of jazz legend Archie Shepp, this kind of session play must feel like home.

It results in a cohesive, smile-inducing record, but one that could use more direction and variety to truly connect. We seesaw between breezy jazz and laid-back indie rap – sounds already explored on Calling Forth the Spirits and BIG Tiny Planet. Still, there’s a newfound confidence and clarity to Moore’s vocal. His melodic approach reminds me of Oddisee and Open Mike Eagle in the way it blurs the lines between rap classicism and freeform songwriting. But it’s that easy closeness with his collaborators that gives the record its momentum.

The record is at its best when it’s loose and explorative, like on the two-part ‘Hey Autumn’ and ‘When Autumn Replied’, which drift off-world with record-scratch improvisations and groovy guitar licks. On ‘Cadillac’, he recounts the love he and his wife have built together, with a sincerity that typifies the record’s successes.

‘Ralph Ellison’ goes cosmic, lyrically pairing the void of space with Moore’s experiences of feeling invisible in his own city. There’s a satisfying synchronisation between Moore’s rap cadence and the expressive drum fills that underlines the album’s use of interplay and collaboration.

While the album nails its mood, it’s weaker in its songcraft. Moore’s melody lines are often aimless and similar, with choruses that don’t do enough to separate themselves from what’s going on around them. ‘Guide’ may be the worst offender, relying almost completely on Moore’s voice to ground and structure the song. His bars only offer tropes like “I’m only human”, and “the sky’s the limit”, which read like vague aphorisms rather than personal experience. ‘Sunny Water’ also floats around in the awkward upper part of his register, hitting the same notes until they lose their heft. More often than not, though, the slight awkwardness of Moore’s singing adds to the charm of this comfortable trip through his life. It’s still a trip well worth taking.