Are Too: Life Injected
There is at times an inherent risk when you are a writer and have talented and creative people in your circle.
You give them shine and you can be called out as showing someone undue favor.
You ignore them and you are doing them, potential fans and their art a disservice.
I have known Rachel (known to her music students as Ms. Repanshek and in hip-hop circles as Are Too) for a bunch of years. Always talented, always trying to come to grips and find her place in her world and the world as a whole. Eventually that path took her from Philly to Oakland where she has resided for the past bunch of years.
She was always uploading things she was working on to her Soundcloud (those tracks have since been removed) and when she told me she was working on putting an album together, I was definitely curious to hear it. At least being separated by a continent meant it would be easier to duck the, “So what do you think?” question that would eventually be headed my way.
After getting the album mastered, I talked/bullshitted her into sending it to me.
I was very, very impressed. She raps, she produces, she mixes, she sings, she plays instruments. All really well. There is not one element that is stale or comes across as contrived. I kept listening to it over and over again.
Because I wanted to.
What I was surprised by the most was the scope of her album, Life Injected. It isn’t just one thing. It’s not just highlighting any one of her talents but instead it is more of a showcase for all of them. Each song can stand on its own, but there was a cohesive element as well. It didn’t seem disjointed. There are a few guest appearances, but they don’t outshine her, nor does she outshine them. When they do appear, they are balanced.
Talking to a friend who listened to a few tracks, he was impressed with her lyrical skills while I thought her production was the best. Not saying that we are an authority in rap, but you know, we do have some street cred and experience in the game. Some people think we know what we are talking about. And we both really liked different elements, each of us having a different opinion about what stood out. Which I think says something.
I talked to her about putting instrumental tracks on it. I thought it was just smart and added another dimension. And they were so well crafted, they would not escape my brain. Even after I took off the headphones. Days later they still were in my subconscious. She brought some of her profession in on these using acoustical mathematics “to make things more appealing for the ears and heart.”
Just because I preferred the production does not mean the content of the bars lacked. At all. One of the things I appreciated the most was being able to take very personal topics, speak to them and her experience, yet make them completely relatable even if you haven’t experienced exactly what she has. It is almost as if some of her lines are double entendres, but the two meanings are her experience versus yours. They can be interpreted in more than one way, on more than one level. There is a fine line between dumbing your lyrics down so much they are bland and have no value versus making them so personal that no one can relate. In my opinion, she managed to walk that razor-thin line perfectly. Those struggles, that darkness, those conflicts may be hers, but they are most peoples’ too at the same time.
This doesn’t mean that there is something for everyone. Everyone won’t be feeling this album. Like people who don’t appreciate talent. Those who don’t understand skill. People who hate for the sake of hating. Some can’t appreciate the beauty. And for others it just won’t be their thing. That’s ok. At the same time, there is a songwriting element that isn’t often seen in rap music or hip-hop which a discerning ear will pick up on. It is structurally sound. Those people will appreciate it. People with that open mind, open ear and open heart will probably like this. It is not a case where she had lofty ideals but failed to execute or hit her mark. I think she nailed it on all fronts.
She not only makes music but knows how to make songs. And as Life Injected proves, she knows how to make albums too. There are moments of fun, other moments of gravity, at times a ’90s boom-bap, occasionally breezy and other points it is painfully personal and intimate, while being hauntingly beautiful. (I am referring to the final cut, “Find Me.”)
I think there is a part of her package too which speaks to the duality of people. Good/bad, light/dark, happy/miserable, etc. While some people try to deny this, other people try and hide it, there is a risk taken by others by putting it all out there. Whether you risk being judged by family, friends, co-workers, or for her, her students, it is unabashedly and unapologetically put out there. It’s her, but now it’s yours to do with what you want.
I thought the music was rich, layered, well-crafted, smart, a break from the norm.
She is independent and talented. She and her team are out here putting in work.