Yirim Seck raps like most people drink water. Or breathe. You know those normal human activities we all do with such mandatory repetition that we forget we’re doing them? Some artists paint pictures, some authors write novels, and some athletes play sports in the same fashion. It just comes naturally. Those folks have muscles that most people don’t. Yirim Seck just happens to have the Emcee Muscle.
Which is why, considering how intensely hungry the 206 hip-hop scene is for music these days, it comes as a surprise (at least to this blogger) that it’s taken this long for Yirim Seck to release a full-length album. He’s mostly known around town as one-third of (now defunct?) Pyrate Radio, an act that, surprisingly for all its considerable talent, has also never released an album (at least to my knowledge). I’m sure the inner-workings of a hip-hop group are fraught with a myriad of reasons why they can’t get their collective act together (Pearl Dragon, after all, has got a pretty good thing going with Champagne Champagne), but the release of a Pyrate Radio record would be cause for celebration for many underground fans.
Instead, we get Hear Me Out from Yirim Seck. And, trust, it’s enough. Here Yirim separates himself, talent-wise, from his Pyrate Radio brethren. In fact, he separates himself from most local rappers completely. Dude is talented. The first time I heard him spit was on the Pyrate Radio track, “Hey You Say You” where I was struck by his effortless, nonchalant flow and clever wordplay. There’s even more of that on Hear Me Out. Yirim possesses that rare rapper’s ability to effectively express himself without sounding like he’s working very hard. It’s a style that draws you in naturally to the music, a voice that complements hip-hop’s indigenous breaks and boom-bap perfectly.
On the album, he puts his talent to good-use. Yirim wants listeners to know he’s a fully-arrived solo emcee who’s legit (“Check”). He also makes clear that his life is filled with very ordinary circumstances, from the unexpected birth of his first child (“Rebirth”), to the struggle of trying to make a living off his art (“Run It”), to the sexual temptations that f*ck-up relationships (“Trust”). Hear Me Out‘s main character is an everyman who says, “See, I have some of the same problems you do.” That this everyman can tell his stories and present his particular ethos more lyrically than others is to the benefit of hip-hop fans everywhere.
The production is generally straight-forward, traditional hip-hop. There are no grand histrionic sonic arrangements or overwrought musical experiments. What it lacks in relative spectacular-ness, it makes up for in well-executed convention, mostly a mixture of DJ Premier-cloned beats with straight-laced underground sensibilities. Yirim Seck doesn’t need fancy sh*t anyway, there’s enough raw personality and talent here to announce a welcome (re-)arrival of this emcee without superfluous musical flourish.
Just because the general public doesn’t know who Yirim Seck is, doesn’t mean he’s an unknown among the members of Seattle’s hip-hop community. He’s been down with The Physics and Gabriel Teodros for years. They all came up rapping together. To fans, however, he appears to be that dude on the low, waiting for an opportunity. Like the ballplayer who’s kicked around the minors for a few years developing his skills, and then all of a sudden he’s in the majors batting .350.
In actuality, Yirim Seck’s just been busy living real life. Very few local artists eat off rap, and those lucky enough to do so are probably both greatly thankful for the opportunity but tired from the constant and necessary grind. Yirim Seck is already worn-out from the hustle, and he hasn’t even “made it” in the music business yet. It’s cats like these, the hard-working underdogs whose talent often makes them more-deserving than those above them, that hip-hop roots for.