Canadian hip-hop artists have had a bad rap (sorry) south of the border. Saukrates is no exception. If you do some reading up on the guy, he’s had his share of bad luck: he’s completed records at least twice, only to get dropped by his respected labels. So not only has Saukrates had a hard time getting into the U.S. market, he’s had problems getting his music out there, period. However, Saukrates is known for his collaborations. He’s performed with Nelly Furtado, and has collaborated with Method Man and Redman on a track. He has worked with others as well. He also is credited with giving Drake his start. That means Saukrates is hardly an also-ran. Now we have new music from this classically trained rapper. The Amani EP is so named for Saukrates’ given name. And it’s incredibly soulful and pop culture-laden: there’s references from everyone from Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, and Eddie Murphy, and TV shows such as Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Big Bang Theory get name dropped.
Here’s the thing, though. The Amani EP is a tad not up to scratch because, on the first two songs, Saukrates proves that he’s a commercial, clean rapper with a staccato style. Just listening to him is a marvel to behold. However, by the time you get to the last half of this EP, Saukrates is dropping the n-word and the f-word like no tomorrow, earning this short disc a Parental Advisory sticker. That’s the disappointment. I know, I know, rap is usually full of cuss words, and perhaps with good reason: if I were a black man who could be gunned down by police officers who fear a black man unarmed, I’d probably have a good reason to swear like a sailor, too. However, the transition from skilled rapper to tough guy is jarring and rather unfortunate. Saukrates proves in the first two songs that he has talent, and he certainly doesn’t need to drop f-bombs to prove that he deserves to be taken seriously. And this is coming from a guy with a soft spot for songs like “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe”. Perhaps if the cussed-up stuff wasn’t buried at the end of the disc, I might have had a different opinion. But, as it is, it just seems as though Saukrates wants his cake and eat it, too: he wants to be commercial at first and then he wants to appeal to the gang bangers out there. Still, despite all of that, the Amani EP is at the very least interesting, with a blissed-out vibe (De La Soul is an influence), and should go some way to proving that Saukrates can hang with the best of them in the American marketplace.