REVIEW: Phil Ade ‘The Letterman’

Phil AdeThe Letter
[audio:|titles=1 The Letter]

On rapper Phil Ade’s Myspace, he is quoted saying, “I’m an everyday person, rapping about everyday things for every day of peoples lives…” This quote perfectly summarizes the content of his music and one of the most appealing attributes of Phil Ade: how easy he is to identify with. Hailing from the D.C. metro area, Ade–formally known as Philip Adetumbi–started rapping during his junior year of high school. He then got the honor of being the first artist signed to Raheem DeVaugn’s label 368 Music Group making his musical debut with the mixtape “Starting on JV” in July 2009. This mixtape served as Ade’s introduction to the rest of the U.S. outside of the DMV area, and also was used by him to proclaim his spot on the roster of the new school of hip, or the “JV” as he referred to it. Phil’s latest work, his debut album titled “The Letterman,” shows Ade’s belief that he has moved up from JV to the Varsity squad of rappers. “The Letterman,” proves that Ade has indeed moved onto the next level and rap, and has the ability and drive to continue his ascent.

Whether he is rapping about Kanye West interrupting Taylor Swift on “Tipsy Mood” or chronicling his life as he does on “My Story,” Ade brings his “A” game lyrically on every track; making “The Letterman” is an exceptional debut album. He does this by first choosing a beat that compliments his cadence and the mood of the song. This may seem beside the point, he is a rapper after all and doesn’t produce any of his music, but the beat choices reflect his self-confidence in his ability to rap. Instead of relying on over-produced instrumentals to prop his music up, Ade raps over beats that are more minimalistic, and focus the attention on what he is saying instead of what is going on in the background.

The first track on the album, “The Letter,” epitomizes this facet of Phil. It sets the tone for the rest of the album by beginning with a galvanizing speech talking about sacrifice, dedication, and the pursuit of perfection; an addition to the song that makes it clear what Ade’s aspirations are. A beat consisting mainly of snares and chimes sets in as the background music, and with the attention of the listener focused on him, Ade gets on the mic to officially start “The Letterman.”  Although not every song has as simplistic of a beat as “The Letter,” this song still demonstrates how “The Letterman” is focused on Phil Ade’s lyrical prowess that is characterized by clever wordplay, varying subject matter, and subtle humor and humility. This combination is potent, especially for a rapper who is only one mixtape and one album into his career. If Ade can continue to create songs with the same passion and deft wordplay that is found on other standouts such as “Borderline,” “Hollywood remix,” and “OMG,” look for him to be a force in hip-hop for years to come.

There are two possible complaints about this album; neither of them has to do with Phil’s work directly and both could easily be seen as trivial. First, the choruses on some of the songs are simply mediocre. The song “Like Dat” is a perfect example. After Phil lets loose on the beat, the chorus comes in and all but negates his hard work. The chorus is just the repetition of the words “Like Dat,” and will lead many to fast-forward through those 20 seconds to reach Phil’s next onslaught of rhymes that would make “Like Dat” a great song, if it weren’t for that dreaded chorus. A second complaint with “The Letterman” is that the features are not needed. Phil outdoes most of the guests’ versus, leaving their contributions unnecessary. Although both of these criticisms are minor, corrections to them could help propel Ade to the upper echelon of hip-hop.

“The Letterman” is an overall great debut album.  There is not a single song on the CD that could be considered filler material, or weak; and although 20 tracks is a lot, Ade is easily able capture and maintain interest for the entire album. In a recent interview with Okayplayer Phil Ade said that the next step in his career is to take his music to the world; although a lofty goal, after hearing “The Letterman” its apparent Phil Ade has what it takes to make that a reality.