Don't let Sean Sbardella's moniker of choice — Metaphysics ("Meta P") — dissuade fellow ol-skool enthusiasts who prefer original-recipe rap to the bombastic, rapid-fire verbiage of latter-day indie backpackers. Though still in his 20s, Meta P sticks to the original hip-hop blueprint drafted by Golden Era greats in the late '80s through the mid-'90s — a woofer-rattling beat, 16 bars of braggadocious metaphors, and a throwback rapper or two crisply sliced up in the hook (a la DJ Premier, Pete Rock, etc.) remains a potent formula for us aging rap dudes. Meta P's Off the Rock is proof-positive that a simpler plan can still produce quality results.
IN THE FAST LANE Meta P.
Born in St. Louis, raised here and currently residing in Riverside (with a B.A. in English from RIC), Sbardella travels the Northeast corridor working full-time in sales. After 12 years of writing, recording, and performing, completed his full-length debut with help from two local heavyweights in DJ Remedy (whose custom mixes have popped up on Eminem's Sirius station, Shade 45) and beatmaker-producer phenom 8th Wundah.
"Remedy and I have been friends since we were 12 years old," Sbardella told me. "He brings immaculate cuts and DJ skills to the table, and 8th Wundah is a Rhody legend, with years of creativity and experience, and the rawest production Rhode Island has ever seen."
Of course, Sbardella's Italian heritage had me inquiring about any white-guy rapper references or backlash
"Back in the day when I was 15-16 years old, doing shows around the time Eminem dropped his first album, and the comparisons actually weren't too frequent," Sbardella said. "But when every white boy in Rhode Island started putting out demo tapes around 2004 then, yeah, it became a common occurrence.
"I think the whole world associated white emcees with Eminem wannabees but, ironically enough, you'd only hear it from white people."
When asked for his two favorite all-time lyricists, Meta P immediately turned to indie wordsmith Tech N9ne and Outkast's Andre 3000.
"I consider these two guys pioneers as far as creating their own styles and establishing themselves as concrete walls in hip-hop," he said. "No matter how much time goes by they manage to create relevant music while staying true to their original formula."
In terms of penning lyrics, Metaphysics prefers banging out bars on a laptop.
"I have been typing lyrics since I was 18, before that I'd fill up notebooks," he said. "As an English major, I became quick at typing, and on a computer I could keep up with my train of thought.
"Once I start working on a song, I write and revise it at least 10 times. I am manic about my projects — I can't sleep peacefully until it's finished," said Sbardella.
Fast approaching his 30s, I asked whether he envisions himself still rocking the booth and rapping onstage (and friends calling him Meta P) years from now.
"Hip-hop will always have a younger audience than, say, classic rock, and a lot of my buddies are married now and have completely stopped listening to rap music," he noted.
"But I understand, rap music is all about conquering the world and living in the fast lane, and honestly I don't think that's a morale a decent family man can take with him into fatherhood."