“Checkmate” the brand new, and 5th album by Toronto rap artist N0va “explores the idea of collateral damage, a retrospective and introspective insight into the artist and his attempt to leave a legacy,” The real are always respected, even if they are not always liked or understood by everyone. Sometimes one’s own aura can innately feel the power and authenticity of another person or entity; the feeling is undeniable. Frequent criticisms of Rap is that the style of lyrical and upper echelon vernacular, wordplay, and such rap elements has faded with time. Also, people are not simply looking for lyrical, storytelling rap no longer; they want to be able to dance, turn up and sing along in the clubs or YouTube videos without always having to compromise the lyrical quality. There needs to be a balance of lyricism that makes the difference between a great rapper and a great musician overall.
To adapt and therein survive, Rappers have to realize that there needs to be more bars and they need to construct full compositions that can capture their listeners from intellectual and high energy standpoints. Lyrical rap is not dead, it’s just not in the mainstream right now.
This is not to say that there are not gentlemen insanely talented and respected, but apart from Kendrick and Cole, a definite King has not yet been established. In the underground, N0va is currently and undeniably the closest thing to this exalted leader to challenge the rap industry’s titans, with his distinguishable voice and personal music. And “Checkmate” proves this through and through.
N0va stands above the mumble rappers as a true, gritty spitter who flawlessly fuses marksman pinpoint lyricism and personal realness with every bar and punchline on “Checkmate”. From the moment you hit play on the opening track “Own Up”, to the closing cut “Cold Blooded”, N0va puts his entire soul, powerful aggressiveness, full lyrical acuity, storytelling, his ambition, and determined persona, into one magnificent album going 100% bar for bar from start to finish.
The seriousness and dexterity N0va approaches his audience with on “Checkmate” is a must listen for anyone who claims to like lyrical rap, inspiring rap, modern rap and rap in general.
The relatability is so powerful with lyricism not too lofty that I found myself playing some songs 5-7 times in a row to absorb the incredibly deep psychological concepts explored in them, like “Manifesto”, “Never Forget Me”, “No Sleep”, “0 to 100”, “High and Dry” and “It’s All Love”. All these songs in some way or another leads the listener on a journey as N0va prominently shares his life’s ambition with all its possible pitfalls and blessings.
If we put all the rappers that have produced music into a book it would be a long one, but rappers that have an everlasting impact on the game would only be a flyer. What is common between those making an impact is the storytelling aspect that they bring to the game. They are able to express their lyrics in narratives that could jump off the pages and onto a movie screen.
On this album N0va writes his raps from a first-person narrative that allows for the listener to place themselves into his shoes and inside his real-life movie. It seems that N0va will be another narrator for the industry’s top storytelling list.
If nothing, as a rap fan, listen to “Checkmate” by N0va: a truly great precedent of how a young rapper is supposed to evolve in their career and an extraordinary precedent for the kind of rap music that we should demand and expect to come in 2018.