Today we bounce over to Canada to search for the elusive female rapper Eternia, an artist who was briefly mentioned as a guest star during the write-up for Apathy's Honkey Kong. Before I continue, though, I have to say: isn't it weird how a lot of the artists I've written about this month have crossed over onto each other's albums? It's almost as though the white rappers have formed a union and fully believe that the only way they'll survive in our chosen genre is to support one another.
Anyway, Eternia is an Ontario-based, Juno-nominated rap artist whose body of work is smaller than your favorite rapper's child support payment checks: she operates under the "less is more" tactic, allowing the songs she does choose to release speak for her. She's done a fine job of this, too: Eternia is considered to be one of the finest female emcees that hip hop has ever produced, even though she's far from a household name and will most likely never reach that status.
Unless everyone reading today's post buys her debut album, It's Called Life, and distributes it amongst their friends, anyway.
It's Called Life hit store shelves in 2005 after Eternia connected with fans on her many cameo appearances and 12-inch singles. It sold just as well in the States as you would expect an album with almost no promotion machine behind it, but in her home country, her debut was nominated for the equivalent of a Grammy for Best Rap Recording. Which may or may not mean that it was popular, I don't know: can my Canadian readers help me figure out if a Juno is more well respected than a fucking Grammy? Because a Grammy really doesn't mean shit down here.
A quickie rap album intro laced with some layered lyrics from our hostess in the background, declaring the title of the album.
Eternia rocks over a looped-up sample taken from the Beach Boys song "Good Vibrations", which sounds much better in execution than it does when written out like that. She also reveals some general indifference-bordering-on-hatred for Kanye West's success, which is surprising, but only because you would think that underground artists have better things to complain about than mainstream rappers well on their way to becoming pop stars. (It would make more sense had Eternia and 'Ye grown up together. That's all I'm saying.) Eternia's verses sound confident, though, and she rides the beat with ease, which is all one can really ask for in a rap song. Not bad.
The hook on "Hate" succumbs to the trappings that most off-the-radar rappers find themselves stuck with: the overly-wordy chorus. Still, this track wasn't all bad: Eternia attacks her haters with a flow that sounds more hostile and just slightly vulnerable thanks to her deep voice, although I have no doubt that she'll still kick your ass if necessary. She gets upset when discussing the fact that, while she's been celibate for a while (at least as of this recording), she's still peppered with questions about who she's dating and fucking and such: I assume she isn't a big fan of TMZ. Is there a Canadian equivalent of TMZ?
4. BEEF (FEAT. CESAR COMANCHE)
An interlude, albeit one that attempts to incite a conflict between the United States and Canada, so...
5. FAMILY (FEAT. HELIXX C. & DJ DOPEY)
Eternia pairs up with another female emcee, Helixx C. (of the Anomolies), for a three-minute excursion into the concepts of family and the importance of shit-talking. Although both contributors sound pretty good on here, there weren't many memorable lines, save for the vocal samples DJ Dopey scratched in during the "hook". Such is life.
I thought this was dope as hell, though. Our hostess builds a two-verse missive around how people try, unsuccessfully, to control time, seemingly forgetting that everyone's time will be up eventually. This song is punctuated with moments of clarity, as Eternia admits that she believes her career will be essentially over if she doesn't hit it big by a certain deadline, something that we all feel on a day to day basis (unless you're a multi-millionaire that happens to be reading that post - if so, how about supporting the blog by purchasing some items off of Amazon?). Hard-hitting, but with a slightly somber twist, too.
I couldn't get into this track. Sue me.
8. UNDERSTAND (IF I) (FEAT. FREESTYLE)
I have to be honest, Eternia is kind of losing me here. The slow rolling bass on this instrumental is pretty moving, but that issue underground rappers have with talking so much shit that every song starts sounding the same? Happens to women too. Freestyle is included solely because his presence helps break up the monotony, I suppose, and he does his job well enough, but It's Called Life is getting old. I now remember why I stopped caring.
A goofy but well-delivered metaphor about how our host feels that she belongs to both Canada and the United States. I'm just thankful that "Balance" swings the pendulum back in the right direction: I was starting to worry for a bit.
A spoken word interlude from Eternia. You all know how I feel about this sort of thing, but at least she didn't outsource it to another poet.
11. LOVE (FEAT. JESSICA KAYA)
Eternia dedicates an entire song to her mother, which is a sweet thought. But the fact that she also convinced her sister, guest singer Jessica Kaya, to lend her vocals to a song dedicated to her mother? Best Mother's Day gift ever, yo! No, seriously, I thought this track was pretty good. It's hard to sound sincere in our chosen genre, one which was built off of the promise of braggadocio and everything shit-talking entails, so to have someone provide a heartfelt sentiment in the form of a rap song is commendable.
12. STRUGGLE (FEAT. WORDSWORTH & KENN STARR)
Production team Tone Mason work their underground magic on "Struggle", another track which attempts to shake up the status quo by proving that Eternia can spit as hard, if not harder, than her male counterparts. This is the second time this month that Wordsworth has popped up on HHID, and I stand by my assertion that he was most of the talent in Punch-N-Words (a review of Mirror Music may finally just have to happen already), especially since he and Eternia make for a potent tag team. Kenn Starr appears on here too, but he sounds like Prodigy from Mobb Deep without the brooding personality and the jaded outlook on life sickle-cell anemia can give you, so there's nothing more to say about him. This wasn't bad, but it could have been much better.
13. GIRLS (FEAT. CESAR COMANCHE)
A quickie that features Eternia at the top of her game, inspired by the world and ready to conquer the genre. The instrumental sounds like nothing you would ever expect her to use, which may be why it works so well: sometimes it's all about the contrasts in the music.
This was really fucking good. Eternia spits over a hot beat, waking the audience up in just enough time for everyone to leave the auditorium. I felt that the hook was banging (no pun intended), but it does suffer from the need rappers have to cram tons of words into choruses as though they'll never get a chance to write another one again. Still, this was a fantastic way to end things.
My copy of It's Called Life ends with an untitled bonus track that ends up being another uninteresting skit. And with that, I'm done.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Eternia's It's Called Life has its rough patches where you wish the fucking album would end already, but for the most part, it's a worthy listen. She has a very distinct flow, not quite as monotonous as Bahamadia but with a voice nearly as deep, with her choices in subject matter ranging wildly from general audience shit-talking, to less obvious options such as her love of her country and, well, love in general. The production swings from banging to meandering, sometimes within the span of a single verse, but Eternia's flow is confident enough to bring the attention back to her. She's deserving of a much wider audience, and also some better production (her second album, At Last, was an album-length collaboration with producer MoSS, so at least that's a step in the right direction), but you shouldn't let that sentence, which sounds like a dis, distract you from the prize. It's Called Life has more than enough great moments to outweigh the bad.
BUY OR BURN? If you come across this, I think it's worth your money. Maybe don't go out of your way to look for it, though.
BEST TRACKS: "Bang"; "Time"; "Balance"