One of the biggest qualities one must have when it comes to being a successful rapper is confidence. You can’t be bashful about your hip hop lifestyle. No true rapper gets nervous while talking about the size of their hotel room orgy or how their helicopter fits into their car. It just wouldn’t be proper.
What sets Black Rambo instantly among the all-time greats is his unbreakable attitude towards being Black Rambo. The man oozes confidence in ways that science (and his microphone) can’t quite explain yet. When I first saw him on Spotify, his profile picture was that of him, shirtless, looking down and away from the camera. “How cool is this guy?” you have to ask yourself. The correct answer to that is “So.”
Black Rambo is a rapper from Colorado, who I discovered, like everything on the internet, through a link that a friend sent to me through Facebook chat. From there, I became fascinated with the intensity that Rambo presents in both of his albums. Black Rambo is a dichotomy of pained spirit and mechanically charged sex machine, and his two albums are both sides of that coin.
Just listen to the first track of the debut album, Blackavelibenz. It’s called “Free Spirit” and it doesn’t take fifteen seconds of narration before Black Rambo openly admits that it’s the best song on the album. Who else does that? No other rapper in history has the balls to come right out and say “This is the top and it’s all downhill from here.” And when you listen to the album, you realize that Black Rambo is right. “Free Spirit” is undoubtedly the best song on Blackavelibenz. It starts out as a love song dedicated to how awesome he is and about how much he loves a certain special girl. And then the song does a 180 and he immediately goes on to tell about all the awful shit she’s done. Black Rambo speaks no lies.
After he gets done with the first and only verse of the song, he once again begins to narrate about how he’s known the girl for six years, making it oddly specific. But Black Rambo couldn’t care less about a girl hearing this track and thinking Hey, I’m terrible. “Free Spirit” stands apart from the rest of Rambo’s output, as it’s the only one that delves into Rambo’s personal life, even though Rambo would put his “EX” in the video for “She Want A Winner,” which will be discussed later.
But this isn’t a major theme for Blackavelibenz. The second track is “I Wish That I”, a song that is 90% just Black Rambo autotuning “YO BODY” over and over again, so messily layered that it becomes incomprehensible. Rambo’s auto-tunes never quite meld cohesively in the way that they should. They trail off into the next verse, so the only time that BR ever sounds clean is in the middle of the line, since the beginning and end are bleeding into each other. In the third track, “Slow”, Black Rambo loses any perception that he might be a soulful, hurt rapper and shifts into the mode that defines him almost entirely: advising women on the various ways that they can turn him on and collect his semen. If you took what Black Rambo rapped about as his literal lifestyle, you’d wonder how he had time to sleep between all those visits to booty.
The auto-tuning, helpful in distinguishing Blackavelibenz from his later album, reaches its peak with “Your Movin’ On.” While the title of the song uses incorrect grammar, it’s spelled exactly the way that any song that uses that much auto-tuning should be spelled. It’s what auto-tuning would sound like if you spoke through a mic in a wet pool noodle.
The title of Black Rambo’s second album, Faded Thug Music, seems like a Mad Libs for rap music label names, and it is the better of the two releases. The overall theme of the Faded Thug Music is easily noticeable from the track listing, with songs like “I Like Bi Bit*che$,” “Fu*%in These Bit*tche$,” “Bit*che$ Say Hi,” and “Take That Dick.” You’d think that ,from the way that Black Rambo Ke$has up the word “bitches,” that he’d do something similar with “dick,” but I wouldn’t want to impede on any artistic statement that he’s trying to make. It’s not a question of censorship, so I’ll add it to the list of traits that sets BR apart from a rapper that would just spell something correctly and maintain the boring status quo.
It’s clear that the Black Rambo on Faded Thug Music is not the same Rambo from Blackavelibenz. He rarely takes the time on Faded Thug Music to ponder about a girl who doesn’t return his affection. Rather, he shows the evolved attitude of a man burned one too many times. Look at the song “Take That Dick,” as a prime example of the emotions on display in Faded Thug Music. Rambo croons, “I don’t care if you love me or not/girl, take that dick.” On one hand, it’s a cold suggestion. And on the other, it represents growth on Black Rambo’s part.
If “Take That Dick” had been a part of Blackavelibenz, it would have been about the mistakes that Black Rambo made that caused a woman to abandon him. Black Rambo seems to progress in the opposite way of most rappers. Usually, rappers start out with ludicrous sexual gestures and, as they get closer to forty, begin to create things that are more based around growing up and maturity. Black Rambo started off with a song that was inspired by real life and then, after about five verses of that shit, shifted into songs that are the musical equivalent of getting laid in a gas station bathroom.
Black Rambo’s magnum opus is a song entitled “Shawty Work That Pole” and I’m not lying when I say that it’s the most heartfelt song about shawties working poles ever recorded. It starts out with Black Rambo crooning softly into the mic and quickly develops into Black Rambo ruining his levels by yelling “Shawty work that pole!” repeatedly, while his audio equipment writhes in pain.
The song chronicles a sad stripper. Black Rambo wonders aloud about how she got there and why she looks sad. He remarks that he’s seen girls like this before and the road they go down, and then tops off the scenario by shouting “OOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHHH DAMN!” He says that it hurts her so much to work that pole that she has to do it with her eyes closed, giving us a clear mental image of this cartoonishly depressed erotic dancer being shouted at by a shirtless rapper.
The next verse of the song features more of BR’s intuition as he explains her backstory. She started stripping as a simple job to pay her tuition, and what makes the insight beautiful is that it’s done without a hint of irony. So much independent rap today is based around trying to legitimize yourself by defining yourself as illegitimate when it comes to mainstream rap. You’re not like those guys rapping about guns and women and drugs. You’re funny and have a silly, self-aware music video. Black Rambo lacks self-awareness in ways that I can’t even imagine. Self-awareness in a Black Rambo song is Black Rambo talking about taking the time off from getting blown to smoke a blunt. The idea of a girl paying her way through college through stripping is such a heavily-used cliché joke that Black Rambo’s dedication to it is admirable.
Black Rambo claims to see “behind the beauty” and that “she’s not that naughty,” delving into the heavy sexual psychology that features in many of his songs. However, as the song ends, “Shawty Work That Pole,” Rambo begs the girl to “get off that pole,” no doubt a positive approach to the problem. This is what separates this track from a lot of BR’s others. While stylistically similar to Faded Thug Music, “Shawty” contains a much more enlightening tone and speaks highly of redemption, rather than chaos.
Rambo’s other notable single is “Stay Shemin’” which features Drake, but only because the instrumental that Rambo uses didn’t have Drake ripped off of it. The song, at first, talks about Rambo’s life growing up, but that only lasts a few lines before Rambo smoothly transitions into “fucking bitches raw.”
Whereas “Shawty” is identifiable through the distorted audio that a yelling Rambo causes, “Shemin’” can be defined through how hard it is to actually understand what Rambo is saying. It sounds like rapping by means of a dental exam, and Drake provides a nice contrast to Rambo, since he raps intelligibly. On the first listen, I didn’t think that Rambo would have second verse, as it comes oddly late into the song, but he does, where he talks about killing it if he has to and rhymes “make it” with “make it.”
I wrote a week ago that the mark of a true independent rapper is a devotion to Twitter and Black Rambo is no exception. At the time of this article’s release, he has 19, 307 followers on Twitter, which is, at first glance, remarkable, but after a certain amount of thought, totally fitting. He manages the promotion of the trademark Black Rambo brand with a mix of four themes:
First, he promotes his mix tapes in ingenious ways. He says that they “sound like albums,” which is awesome to know, but also a diss on mix tapes in general. That’s reasonable, as most mix tapes are basically what a rapper releases when he doesn’t want to pay to buy the track for the remix.
Second, he tirelessly shares his prolific amount of uploads.
Third, he lets us fans in on the personal details of his life. While, recently, Black Rambo’s life revolves around loitering in strip clubs, it’s song lyrics tweets like these that help him to retain his basic emotions and his humanity.
And fourth, he manages to interact with his fans through polling them on his own attraction. In typical Black Rambo fashion, he asks his fans to rate how hot they think he is and looks away from the camera. He hasn’t gotten any responses yet, but they will come. They will come.
Black Rambo has three music videos available on YouTube and they all have various levels of extreme Black Ramboness, along with labels in the center, letting us know what program Black Rambo used to encode them. The first is for a song called “She Want A Winner” off of Faded Thug Music, which features a curvaceous girl in pink underwear dancing. I’m not sure who she is, but at the start of the video, the words “My EX” shows up, a claim that I question. This is either the weirdest revenge tactic any rapper has ever used or there is some poor webcam girl out there that is unaware of that fact that she was dated and dumped by Black Rambo. About a minute before the end, the video cuts off and is replaced by pictures of champagne and what appears to be a Black Rambo album cover.
The second is for the song “You Hatin’ On Me” and it’s here that we first get a glimpse of Black Rambo in action. His two main motions in the video are walking towards the camera and shaking his head disapprovingly at it before it swerves away towards the ground. None of Black Rambo’s videos are edited so much as they are “put together.” There is nothing that could be called a cut, and the next shot begins whenever the cameraman pressed the record button for the second time. We get to see what Black Rambo’s house looks like, the house that I assume he talked about in “I Wish That I”, which he told an ex-girlfriend was “the place to be.” Once again, it’s a claim that I can only counter with: ehhh, maybe, Black Rambo.
We get to see Black Rambo in the studio, spitting hot verses though, in none of the videos, do Black Rambo’s lip movements match up to the song playing. It seems weird that Black Rambo would leave in entire sections where he just shoots shit with the cameraman, but I can chalk it up to his unwavering confidence, and having a hot “Ex GF.”
The third video is for a song called “Rockstar” and you know it’s an accurate title because the action takes place at “The Hilton.” Black Rambo’s existence is that of utmost luxury – he walks around a pool shirtless, tells the cameraman to focus on two girls as they walk by in the lobby, chats some more, and paces down hallways. I won’t claim to understand Black Rambo’s lifestyle, but I’ll respect it.
There is a “skit” accompanying the “Rockstar” video, and you need to throw away all expectations of what you know a “rapper’s skit” to be in order to properly enjoy it. Usually, skits on rap albums give us an excuse to hate the featured rapper along with whatever comedian he roped in to be involved in some unfunny dialogue. In Black Rambo’s “skit,” Black Rambo hangs out in a hotel room with another rapper and has a sort of rap battle with him, one that Black Rambo starts, drunkenly slurs through and promptly gives up on. The other rapper takes over from there, but his verse is so unmemorable that you’d swear it was some Spotify induced dream.
Is Black Rambo the most important rapper of today? In a world where rap has become so self-involved that announcements of your own grandeur seem hackneyed, Black Rambo maintains the standard established by former greats. His Twitter indicates that he’s releasing a new album soon, and that can only be a launch pad for the tremendous future success that Black Rambo is constantly on the cusp of.