Wisdom gets fired up on Flannabis

Smells like smoke
By SAM PFEIFLE  |  March 27, 2013


Hip hop is hardly the only genre of music heavily influenced by weed smoking. Even Tom Petty sings about smoking dope. Hip hop just happens to have a whole sub-genre dedicated to it as a cause célèbre.

Consider Wisdom an advocate for the defense. His six-song Flannabis (get it? Mainers wear flannel? Cannabis?) leaves no doubt, if you hadn't already gathered as much from his verses at the Big Easy's Wednesday Rap Night. With so many odes to weed already out there, it's pretty hard distinguishing yourself this way, though. Wiz Khalifa is everywhere with his Kush and Orange Juice. Heck, Spose and Cam have laid plenty of groundwork here in Maine already.

But Wisdom doesn't beat around the bush. He leads his first release with the title track, an R&B-fueled anthem that features a laid-back delivery that still manages to densely pack verses. There's an upstroke in the production to lend a touch of reggae so that the overall feel is as much Courvoisier as it is bong hit, except instead of a sexual entreaty the backing vocals croon, "come get high with me."

There's a political undertone, though, that's less easily dismissed when our elected congresswoman, Chellie Pingree, has submitted a federal marijuana legalization bill. (This is perhaps the only issue on which she and Rand Paul agree.) "I work and pay taxes," Wisdom says of his day-to-day existence, "smoke weed and play music." Plus, the most important part of this whole "Legalize It" movement: "nobody cares."

It's a perfect example of that "Filter Bubble" that Eli Pariser so aptly identified: You can pretty much go through life in Portland right now without having to interact with a single person who would be bothered by marijuana use.

Wisdom walks a skinnier tightrope, though, with songs like "Make Our Own Club," where the production is the edgier fare you might hear on a Milled Pavement release. Granted, I'm prudish, but in the current Steubenville-fueled environment a song about partying hard, "looking for a girl to fuck," with a woman's voice playfully saying, "no," and Wisdom rapping, "the smile says she's lying," raised my hackles. Perhaps the eventual overindulgence of the song's protagonist — represented by a tripped-out, repeating and circling, finish — is a moral of sorts: This guy's too fucked up to be thinking clearly.

"Hip Hop Symphony," too, sets a high bar for itself. Songs about hip hop, itself, are the very core of the genre and therefore a dime a dozen. Wisdom acquits himself well here, especially. The guitar riff on which the song is based is razor sharp and varying, like Beck crossed with the Black Keys, and the chorus is a rail-slide grind. Extremely satisfying.

As is the two-minute quick hitter, "Got No Time," featuring manic contributions from Inspektah and Saiyid, and vocal distortions that recall a turntablist's aesthetic. Saiyid's glottal stops pop with crispness and Inspektah has a dash of Q-Tip's nasal flow. It's not a throwback, though. The electronics are right now and the song's attack has a fierce immediacy to it. (And if you look at it sideways, the "I got no time for you bitches/I got no time for you hoes" refrain can almost be seen as a rejection of misogynist hip hop. Almost.)

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