A few years ago, there was this dude named Jimmy Powers. He rapped well -- well enough to be nominated for a San Diego Music Award (he even performed at the awards ceremony). He was a real humble dude with some resemblance to emo-rap posterboy (inventor?) Slug from Minnesota duo Atmosphere.
Well, this post has almost nothing to do with Jimmy Powers, who has since been pretty MIA (to his credit, I think he has a job that actually pays well enough so he doesn't have to eat instant Ramen noodles every day). But his brother, Chris Powers a.k.a. Entra-P, is still rapping and doing so rather well. He dropped this mix tape, Do the Math, back in October (free download via his Bandcamp here).
I bring up Jimmy only because it's just funny how different the two brothers are. Jimmy definitely tried to present himself as a down-to-earth, introspective, well-rounded artist. In stark contrast, Entra-P is kinda like, "Nah, I'm just gonna talk hella s---, and I'm gonna make it sound real pretty."
That's more or less what he does on Do the Math. If he's like his brother, Entra-P grew up on the East Coast and those roots show. His flow definitely has a '90s East Coast feel, with similarities to the multisyllabic flow pioneered by Masta Ace (shouts to ICJ on the assist). And if Masta Ace is too old for you, think early Eminem, because at the time, Em had also borrowed Masta Ace's flow.
But Entra-P's greatest strength has gotta be his humor. He often goes over-the-top with his rhymes, to comedic effect. Just check "Hit It for the Weekend," a series of proclamations of his sexual prowess, including these lines: “I’m smacking and leaving bruises/Have your a-- looking like it was practice for the Hoosiers.” You hear these rhymes against the sweetest of doowop-esque backdrops, and you're sure to get a wide grin.
Another highlight of the mix tape is "In My World," on which Entra-P tells a farfetched, imaginative origin story. To hear him tell it, he was raised in the Atlantic Rim before travelling to outer space to beat up some aliens and then coming back to solve the world's troubles by the power of his rhymes. It's a roundabout, creative way of getting personal and revealing the motivation behind his music.
Entra-P falters, though, when he ventures outside his comfort zone. The beats for "Let You Know" and "Sauce" just sound a little too, uh, swaggy and modern for his '90s flow. It reminds me of when Nas used to try to keep up with Timbaland's beats, but he just never could mesh well. Also, both beats sound geared for the club, but I'm not sure how many people are trying to hear multi-syllable rhyme schemes up in Belo, know what I mean? And then there's "SweetTooth," on which Entra-P's clever "hot dentist" concept is just wasted on this faux Kenny G-meets-'80s house music instrumental.
Those missteps are few, though. This is a solid tape that showcases a talented rapper. The next step for Entra-P, then, is to define his style even further. I know many mix tapes these days are basically albums with nothing but original material, but Do the Math follows a more traditional mix-tape format, filled with both original music and random verses over borrowed beats. It'll be interesting to see where Entra-P takes it from here and to see if he can translate this into a proper album statement.
Quan Vu Quan Vu is the founder and editor of local music blog sdRAPS.com. He has also written about local and national hip-hop acts for San Diego CityBeat and the San Diego Reader. You can nerd out on rap trivia by becoming BFF's on Facebook or e-mailing him directly.