Stacy Epps - The Awakening

Stacy Epps
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Hip-hop and R&B, once two very polarized musical genres, are now blended these days without a second thought. Any rapper/singer can throw on another artist's honeyed hook or raucous rhyme to score a hit, but it takes a performer of sizable talents to be able to pull off both on their own. In her full-length debut, The Awakening, military-brat-turned-musician Stacy Epps displays an affinity for each style, mixing an awestruck awareness of the world with grimy beats anchoring airy (if sometimes nebulous) grooves and interludes.

Hip-hop and R&B, once two very polarized musical genres, are now blended these days without a second thought. Any rapper/singer can throw on another artist's honeyed hook or raucous rhyme to score a hit, but it takes a performer of sizable talents to be able to pull off both on their own. In her full-length debut, The Awakening, military-brat-turned-musician Stacy Epps displays an affinity for each style, mixing an awestruck awareness of the world with grimy beats anchoring airy (if sometimes nebulous) grooves and interludes.

Surrounding herself with some of underground's best sound providers (Apex, S1 and Flying Lotus, to name a few), Ms. Epps strives to do what artists like Queen Latifah and Lauryn Hill have already perfected; singing and rapping with equal strength and eloquence. She certainly posesses the capacity to both carry a tune and rock the mike: "Heaven," the most potent track in the collection, features hard-hitting couplets that publicize the plight of a struggling street sister who toils towards success: "Lost girl lurking in the dark world, lost viginity at thirteen, pregnant by sixteen, herpes at twenty."  "Floatin'" combines  her supple soprano with a swirling, smoky backbeat and describes how a mutual love and elevated consciousness create Utopia on Earth. "Mothership" is a catchy slice of tripped-out funk, and "Who Knows" is another soothing number, a sweet and celestial tribute to the cosmos with which she yearns to connect.

Unfortunately, what's so refreshing about this eclectic artist is also what makes the collection a bit hard to digest in places: she and her collaborators work hard at constructing a free-flowing sound, for example, but a few of the tracks are too treble-heavy or submerge her vocals with too much of a murky backdrop to allow her verses the necessary clarity to be appreciated (in other words, it sometimes can float right over the listener's head). "Addicted" has a slinky, sexy feel, but too much effort is required to decipher the lyrics, and "Cosmik Dust" has some energetic rhymes, but is too tinny for the boom-bap to resonate as it should.

The purity of her intent and the inventiveness of the tracks are the most compelling elements of The Awakening and why it merits attention to begin with; after all, a sister about more than playas, haters, clubbing and bling-bling is a welcome respite from the ordinary. Ms. Epps, just beginning her journey as a solo artist, is on the right track and has enough ability to overcome those flaws and create what she obviously strives for: music that is as concise as the message she brings.

By Melody Charles

 
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