On "Reclaiming the Community" (OG Disc), a compilation album months in the making, local rappers from varying neighborhoods, affiliations and backgrounds use their voices as a collective response to escalating violence in Southeast San Diego. Over funk-inspired production, RTC's roster of homegrown talent share songs as thinkers, parents and community members who take the idea of reclamation head on.
Some, with a socio-economic slant -- like rappers Big June and Black Mikey -- question the link between poverty and neighborhood violence. The poor don't have much, but the poor don't get much either. There's a certain hypocrisy in that, and it isn't lost on Big June as he points out, "We come from poverty/ five hundred years of robbery/ then you're locking me for BS/ I take it as pure mockery."
Others, on the opposite side of the same coin -- like Licwit Loco -- are all about self determination. Offering up the idea that someone who's working toward something has no time for self-destructive behavior. With all the moxie of Pomona's Suga Free, Licwit cites his own work ethic for keeping him on a straight and narrow path, rapping, "I'm 12 to 12 and a businessman/ not a felon."
Music. Community. Culture.
Where Big June is focused on the system and Licwit on entrepreneurial ventures, C-Hecc is focused on the man in the mirror. "True Story" is a three-and-a-half minute confessional of raw internal dialog that's so earnest and sincere you can almost imagine him kneeling in a position of prayer, rapping with his eyes closed, attempting to save his own soul. He channels the spirit of the '60s and the era of Black Power, mentioning civil rights icons like Malcolm X, Fred Hampton and Dr. King -- all activists and leaders who worked in their own time to reclaim their own communities.
There's also a sense of reclaiming psychic space. RTC does an amazing job at avoiding stereotypes and misconceptions. Aye Hitt's "Make It," for example, is about a proud dad, who cheers in the front row of his son's sporting events and whose top priority is sending his standout student to college. Hitt offers not only a counter narrative to the idea of absent black fathers but also challenges the idea that black America doesn't value education.
Maybe it's the communal nature of the album, but there's a surprising cohesiveness here. It isn't scattered or uneven with that see-what-sticks kind of formula. Instead, "RTC comes across as a grass roots art project with a common purpose: the spirit of togetherness. It's one that makes for a united front and results in an impressive whole that's greater than the sum of its parts.