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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

October 1, 2020   |   Ithaca, NY

Life & Culture

Review: Rapper combines poetic lyrics with jazz sound

Purple Moonlight Pages

Ruby Yacht

R.A.P. Ferreira’s new album, “Purple Moonlight Pages” is a continuation of the verbose out-of-the-box jazz-rap fans should be accustomed to, and the album is a worthwhile addition to his catalog.

Ferreira has always picked production that compliments his lyricism, and that is abundantly explicit in the sound of this album. Previously, he rhymed poetic lyrics on top of sparse production, often padded with beeping electronics and winding strings. On “Purple Moonlight Pages,” he has a credited backing band, The Jefferson Park Boys, which is made up of producer Kenny Segal and musicians Aaron Carmack and Mike Parvizi. This shifts the sound toward a rootsier jazz direction, which rounds out the song with rhythmic drumming and horn sections. This is the most distinctive addition to the record, giving it the feel of a smoky midcentury jazz club.

The album ebbs between introspective cuts like “DOLDRUMS” and more fiery, immediate tracks like “NONCIPHER” or “LEAVING HELL.” There are a couple of switch-ups, like the R&B-influenced track “CYCLES,” which could have easily fit onto Mac Miller’s “Circles.” The song “MYTHICAL” sounds like something Gil Scott-Heron would have used in the 1970s. Each track fits precisely with the next, establishing a strong sense of flow and structure. The switch of sound overall is reminiscent of jazz-rap in the 1990s from artists like Digable Planets and The Roots. 

Ferreira raps as if the words are falling straight out of his mind as he says them. The entire album is brimming with dense, thoughtful, stream-of-consciousness poetry and spoken word flows, something fans should come to expect from him by now. In that way, the album is tried and true ground for anyone who’s been following his career, and the appeal this time around is what is new in Ferreira’s world. 

Tracks such as “OMENS & TOTEMS” and “GREENS” discuss the mindset of a hip-hop artist through documenting the internal and external struggles to make art in the public sphere. On “LAUNDRY,” an entire track is devoted to the process of doing laundry, which is used as a metonymy to the daily comings and goings of a hip-hop artist.

Take any song from “Purple Moonlight Pages,” and it becomes an example of the artist’s lexicon. In one verse on “RO TALK,” painter Jacob Lawrence, cult science-fiction author Malaclypse the Younger and cartoon character Duck Dodgers all get name drops within almost the same breath. Listeners are not expected to catch every reference, yet the lyricism is regularly delivered with a swaggering flow.

Individually, these songs unfurl like complex poems performed for an empty room. The only problem is that Ferreira could have reached further. Most songs end abruptly, feeling incomplete without a strong conclusion or satisfying structure. There is room for more, but when there is so much quality still present, it’s hard to complain. 

Ferreira proceeds to cement his status as a vanguard voice in the do-it-yourself rap underground. He is a rap weirdo to the highest degree and is all the better for it, using his voice to spread incisive poetry over thoughtful instrumentation. This is an album for headphones and personal space, taking the listener on a guided journey through Ferreira’s remarkable mind.