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Posted on April 30th, 2013 (8:00 am) by Zachary Stavriotis

Raashan Ahmad’s new album couldn’t be more aptly named. Ceremony, out on Jakarta Records April 15th, is ceremonial at its core. Well-calculated with nothing missing, the record never steps outside the box. It is a repeated ritual set in stone; an unchanged and practiced liturgy without a sermon. Since his days in Crown City Rockers, Ahmad has benefited from smooth jazz instrumentation that compliments, while also sometimes critically overshadowing his cerebral brand of hip-hop lyricism.

What has changed since Raashan Ahmad was MC of Crown City Rockers is that his distilled cadence has had time in the cask. It’s been fourteen years since CCR (yes, I’m borrowing that abbreviation) put out their first EP and in that time Ahmad’s voice has matured just enough to match his socially conscious oration, like the heavy hitting “Guns” or “Who’s God.” Unfortunately, it may be just that - oration, leaning more toward slam poetry than rap on tracks like “Who’s God.” Nothing against slam poetry, it just gets busy over all the soulful and colorful jazz music he raps to. To add to these hindrances of his flow, Ahmad doesn’t vary his inflection very well on Ceremony and his ineptitude in this department becomes an issue the few times he tries changing his vocal register, like at the end of the opening song, “Mbeguel (Love).”

“No No No,” the album’s single, is cartoonish in both music and lyric. The funky riff that introduces the song gets stale from repeating far too quickly, and the eponymous “No No No” of the chorus is hard to take serious. Ultimately the track becomes overwhelmed by too many parts being layered and competing for primacy. It’s followed by what should have been the promo single for the album, “Music.” The bright chords combined with a lively bass line and warm horns on the hook animate Ahmad’s Bay Area origin. And who doesn’t like an ode to music? If you’re listening to the song or reading this review, then you must be somewhat of a fan. Sarsha Simone’s soft and sweet vocals are the cherry on top of this escapist treat.

Mid-album, Ahmad gives the jazz a rest on “Get Hi." In fact, he gives cantata in general a break and goes a capella. A chorus chants “Get hi” over his rapid lyrics. Claps and snaps provide the rhythm. The chants get cut up and syncopated at the end of the song to break any monotony that could’ve built up in a mere minute and two thirds.

Raashan Ahmad is very progressively minded and firm in his conviction. It’s hard to criticize the work of those who preach such positive messages, but in matters of ceremony and Ceremony, he should remember that presentation is often more important than the message.

Track List:
1. Mbeguel (Love)
2. The Remedy
3. Easy On Back feat. Sean LaMarr & Helen Kaiser
4. No No No feat. Homeboy Sandman
5. Music feat. Ty & Sarsha Simone
6. Freak feat. Heather Vaughan
7. Out Of Bounds
8. Get Hi
9. Mama Nature
10. Guns
11. Hold On feat. Christina Tamayo
12. Mariposita feat. Rico Pabon
13. Ital feat. Soia
14. How Long feat. Geoffrey Oryema
15. Whos God feat. Rita J
16. Fly feat. Crown City Rockers

Raashan Ahmad, Ceremony, Jakarta Records, Crown City Rockers
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

54 / 100
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