Ask me who are my top five South African MC’s and Proverb sits comfortably unchallenged at the top. Proverb is one of the few rappers, metaphorically speaking, who can spill blood without drawing a weapon (i.e.without being vulgar). And he confesses that this is because he’d like his kids to be able to listen to his music from a young age.
Proverb’s policy on vulgarity is one the things that sets him apart from his peers, who like him have daughters and sons yet have no qualms about the vulgar content of their material. “Not for my kids” or “My kids will have to wait”, they argue. It is a challenge, one that is rarely taken on by rappers. Equally challenging, though, is for rappers to produce content that is relevant and current. And Proverbs latest album, “The Read Tape”, has me questioning if he has risen to it.
Listening to “The Read Tape” it sounds like Pro is literally out of words. I want to compare him to Kanye West who hasn’t produced or delivered anything we can call music, since “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” But we still listen to him because behind the trash he currently produces is a catalogue that demands attention, or at least acknowledgement.
Proverb, like Kanye, has a catalogue behind him that very few can match, and unless you recall that catalogue, it’s easy to relegate “The Read Tape” to the “just another hip-hop album” bin. Pro has done enough great hip-hop albums – inspirational work, such as “Fourth Wright” – so he doesn’t need to produce “just another” one.
At a time when South Africa is on fire politically, there is sadly zero social commentary on the album. And the word play we know and love Proverb for, is absent or rather childish. There are more freestyles than carefully crafted verses and not a mist of motivation in his rhymes. He sounds like an insecure and tired vet.
Pro solidified his place on the throne South African hip-hop with his back catalogue. “The Read Tape” gives anyone who wants to take a shot, a chance to claim that seat.