Grand Rising is a hip-hop project by artist Amari Mar. Throughout its seventeen tracks, Amari showcases his connectedness to the black experience, community, and most importantly himself. Thematically, the album touches on issues that are important, pressing, and close to Amari’s heart. I was mesmerized by the production of the tracks and Amari’s skill with the pen.

From the get-go, I came to understand that Amari is a student of hip-hop. His flows, approaches, and production all draw influences from industry giants both on the East and West Coast. For example, in Black Businesses, Amari plays the role of a younger version of Hov, giving invaluable advice similar to that in The Story of O.J.  On Above the Rim, Amari draws influence from Kendrick’s TPAB, calling out institutionalization and systemic flaws that plague the community. Amari is a rapper’s rapper who knows his influences, roots and pays tribute to the ones before him.

Amari brings so much more to the table. One of the album’s stronger points was the immaculate production. Amari’s team of producers can create instrumentals and beats that complement and fit his style. The chopped and screwed samples, especially in the latter half of the album, had a strong early Kanye and Madlib vibe to them. I was pleased to hear a Nigthingale sample in A Beautiful Soul which I had originally heard being used by Madlib. Undoubtedly, Amari and his team have done their homework when it comes to instrumentals and fine-tuning the beats to match Amari’s and his features’ unique flows and styles.

Now let’s talk about Amari: the main star of the show. I was pleasantly surprised to hear how natural and adaptive Amari was when he was rapping. Grand Rising introduced Amari as the rapper with soulful lyrics who comes across as strikingly self-confident and laden with clever wordplay. Holy Sh!t had him create an atmosphere that portrayed the reality of the community he resides in. Overall, I felt that the first half of the album did a good job of establishing Amari. I felt like the second half was where he took the gloves off.

A Beautiful Soul had poetic lyrics and a fitting feature by Ke Turner. I adored the chemistry between the two. Live Your Life had the most real bars and pieces of advice I had heard in a while. The last couple of songs such as The Chosen One and The Darkness honed in on Amari’s psyche. In the former song, he reflects on his place in the world while in the latter he draws a darker and more personal sketch. The album ends with a banger of the track Rise ‘N Shine.

Overall, I strongly felt that Amari was in his bag when he was rapping. He has a few features here and there but it’s him and the production that carries this project consistently. I strongly recommend listening to Grand Rising!

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