In the brief publicity bio that he wrote for his FrankRight.com website, Chicago-based rapper Frank Right declares: “Hip-hop is not about color. It’s about experience.” Very true. Hip-hop is about experience and skills, and skillful rappers come from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. Right is not black, and that should not be a factor when one is evaluating his work. On his album, Said I Couldn't Do It, the Midwesterner shows himself to be a skillful and talented MC. And Right puts those skills to good use, offering a fair amount of variety and delivering one of the more unpredictable hip-hop releases of early 2013.
Much of the time, Right can be considered hardcore rap. “On Top of the World,” the edgy “Life,” the sociopolitical “Liberty,” the angry “Like Me” and the title song certainly fall into the hardcore rap category. Whether he is addressing social and political issues, describing his angst in vivid detail (which is what he does on “Countdown”) or attacking sucker MCs (a time-honored tradition in hip-hop), Right is quite capable of providing hardcore rap and often does so on Said I Couldn't Do It. However, this 27-minute album also has its commercial moments and its crossover moments.
“Drop,” for example, is straight-up party music and doesn’t pretend to be anything else. That danceable groove favors the type of hedonistic, sexually charged lyrics that the crunk rappers of the Dirty South are known for, but melodically and rhythmically, “Drop” is far from crunk. The tune has a synthesizer-powered groove that is techno-ish and quite European-sounding; “Drop” is an infectious blend of hip-hop and European dance music, and it would work well as a single (especially in Europe). Club deejays should give “Drop” a close listen.
But while “Drop” is fun and frivolous lyrically, “Liberty” is the exact opposite. On that riveting selection, Right talks about poverty, war, police brutality, homelessness, prostitution and sexual abuse. Right covers a lot of social and political ground on “Liberty,” and he does so within the course of only about three minutes and seven seconds. “Liberty,” in fact, recalls a time in which hardcore rappers like Public Enemy, KRS-1, Ice-T, Paris, 2 Black 2 Strong, Melle Mel and Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five were heavily sociopolitical. Unfortunately, sociopolitical rap isn’t as plentiful as it once was (the 1980s and early 1990s were the peak years for sociopolitical rap), but as “Liberty” demonstrates, some MCs are still addressing social and political issues and are quite good at it. “Liberty” is easily the best song on Said I Couldn't Do It and makes one hope that Right will move more in that sociopolitical direction in the future. Major labels are not pushing sociopolitical rap these days, and the more that independent rappers like Right help to fill that void, the better.
Next to “Liberty,” the most compelling tune on this album is the darkly introspective “Countdown.” On that track, Right takes a close and honest look at his demons and his describes his struggles in a blunt, unapologetically candid fashion. In contrast to the fun party-time escapism that characterizes “Drop,” both “Liberty” and “Countdown” make it clear that Right is quite capable of depth and substance.