Whilst many rappers and hip-hop artists seem content to sing about personal gain, the glitz, the glamour, the game, of getting the trappings that seem to go hand in hand with the genre, 4 Wheel City find their inspiration in higher concerns. The album title immediately tells us that the writing comes from a deeper and more meaningful place but this is more than an album of devotional music thought. It discusses a wide range of subjects, social issues, political events, persistent day to day problems and universal world concerns.
Proving that terms such as rap, hip-hop and urban music are too broad to really be of much use, Namel “Tapwaterz” Norris and Ricardo “Rickfire” Velasquez have created an album that neither revels in the past glories of the genre nor simply settles for a commercial route to chart success and a quick buck. Instead they deal with big issues head on, whilst setting eloquent and often elegant words, to music that redefines what those genres can be in the modern age.
Songs such as Burning of the Tiki Torches are particularly powerful, discussing the broad and broken political landscape and calling for unity and Disabled Lives Matter looks at hot topics such as the Puerto Rican floods from the point of view of how it affects those less able to deal with the physical aspects of such a disaster. A song made all the more poignant with a similar storm currently battering the US east coast even as I write this. Leaders of The New World looks at a possible future inspired by people turning away from greed and exploitation and leading by example and Music sees them celebrating the part that creativity plays in their life.
It’s a fascinating album, one that flys in the face of mumbling bedroom rappers searching for a celebrity life-style that seems to have become the norm. It looks the grim reality’s of the modern world straight in the eye and forces the listener to engage in the discussion. It pushes generic boundaries beyond the streets where it grew up and into a sort of provocative urban world music. It is also a timely reminder that music can indeed be a powerful force, can be used as a platform to cause debate, can make the listener both feel and think, two things that seem in short supply in these dark modern days.