In Ozymandias’ newest album GODLY, the hip hop artist lays it all out on the table. His goals, downfalls and frustrations, his unapologetic decision to cut away anything that drags him down–I’d add the term “blind determination” but his eyes are wide open. He knows what he wants and he’s going to get it.
Instrumentally, the tracks meet each in a melodious, cohesive piece of work. Songs like “Aim High”, “Medusa’s Curse” and “Winter Blues” feel like a slow and leisurely night ride, with swift, sharp turns to keep you on your toes. Ozymandias will serve soft and murmuring verses that are cut with pronounced bars, as if he’s snapping his fingers in your ear: “Are you paying attention?”
“Closure” is jaw-dropping. Though only recently familiar with Ozymandias’ work, I wasn’t the only one in Troy Kitchen who did a double take when the artist started to sing, like really sing, during his album release party on March 30. Joined by an all-star band–wind instruments and all–that performance was absolutely stunning and those who were lucky enough to catch it live can relive the moment in this recorded track as he belts it all out to smooth jazz instrumentals.
The song is chopped by a film clip — the notoriously uncomfortable breakup scene from Whiplash, in which Miles Teller’s character cuts ties with his girlfriend to focus solely on his music career. “I wanna be great,” he tells her. “And you’re not?” “I want to be one of the greats,” he clarifies.
There are plenty of familiar lyrical themes here: the confidence in the come-up, the grind of being a focused and independent artist and the swagger that comes with success after a series of struggles. But there are also raw outpourings of emotion that fuel him ever forward in electrifying moments. They’re present in songs like “Awkward Thoughts Chapter 3” — vulnerable recollections that are wiped away by rhymes of perseverance in a matter of seconds. “Ain’t no pressure when you want it this bad,” you can almost see him shrug.
In “Fate,” the artist is able to communicate, in equal parts, anger, frustration and determination about growing up and getting away from the places and people who have restrained him–keeping a close eye on those who might continue to do so–as he spits out bars like, ”I don’t trust cops in this state of emergency/ fuck up the story/ they gon’ find reasons to murder me.”
Ozymandias sees everything happening around him with terrible clarity. The retrospect of his adolescent decisions, the ill will of those who would hold him back, the disparity of a society that can’t seem to square up and look him in the eye. But he doesn’t need it to, he has figured out a way to rise above it. “You’re either gonna fuck with it or you don’t,” he raps in the closing track of “Been Busy.” Looking down over the course of it all with his freshly harnessed power, he’s not playing anymore.