Mo Betta Blues
Brooklyn. That’s the best way to describe Mo Betta Blues’ new album, The Right Time. And being Brooklyn is definitely a compliment, seeing as though it’s no secret that the famous (and equally infamous) borough is a hotbed for talent, and a breeding ground for sharp, resilient, swagger-swollen people, including emcees. Mo Betta Blues has followed suit in that tradition, but like most Brooklynites, he throws his own flavor in the pot.
Mo Betta Blues has quite a few strengths. The first, and most obvious, is purely biological: his voice. A low timbre, gruff sound that could best be described as what the pavement would sound like if it had a voice. Or what the vocal tone of a graffiti tagged bodega would be. It’s “hard city life” but it doesn’t come across as threatening. See, Mo Betta Blues is no crack rapper-shoot ‘em up-screw your girl, emcee. Which brings me to his second strength. Mo Betta Blues is a thoughtful writer, penning verses about life and struggle, the issues in his own community, and of course, love. Not only does he write about interesting, subsurface things, but he writes about them well. Simply put, Mo Betta Blues has skills.
The Right Time starts off on top. Track one, which is simply an intro, is just over two minutes of Mo Betta Blues “introducing” himself to the listeners. By the end of the song you really get the sense that this guy has a pretty firm grip on who he is. Lines like, “I never change from the stoop to the grammys/ whether in the Range or five deep in a Camry,” sheds some light on his priorities and the integrity of his person, which somehow translates seamlessly into his writing.
From there, The Right Time opens up into a host of other stellar tunes. One of my favorites is actually one of those “smooth-cruise” types. “Fly By Night,” featuring Isa Starr, is a flirty song, destined to be heard during late afternoon, summer barbecues, in the midst of laughter and citronella smoke furling in the air.
Another awesome song is track five, “Feeling Me Now.” Mo Betta Blues takes a page out of the book of Mike Jones (without the Mike Jones-ness) and spits an effortless flow about all of his sudden “female fans.” The track is driven by a funky bass guitar riff and a steady bass drum, forcing every listener to dance…or at least tap a foot.
But Mo Betta Blues seems most in his lane when he just gives the raw uncut about everyday life. “Zoning,” an appropriately titled song, is an intense view into the thought process and daily grind of this young emcee, who stresses that before music, he is first a man. The beat swells as his stripped voice mentions the late great Tupac, whom ironically would’ve been the perfect feature for this song.
Brooklyn. Mo Betta Blues is Brooklyn. The Right Time is Brooklyn. But it’s not just the clichéd “hood” Brooklyn. I think even he knows that’s overexposed. Instead, it’s more of a whole look at a Brooklynite. His struggles, his victories, his fun, his failure, his pride, his people, his music and his story, are all woven into this project with well crafted rhymes, and delivered with a distinct, undeniable voice. Mo Betta Blues is tired of waiting for the rest of us to catch on. Clearly, now is the right time.
– Jason Reynolds