One of California rapper/producer Blu’s aliases, Godlee Barnes, has struck again, this time notching production credits on rapper ANTHM’s Handful of Dust EP. ANTHM, a Duke University graduate and former Wall Street trader (no, seriously) shone on his funky Joy & Pain EP, and seems to have honed his talents even more on this collaborative effort with one of my favorite hip-hop artists at the moment.
Handful of Dust begins with “Freefall,” featuring New York native ANTHM’s smooth lyrics over a rather soulful beat that would both remind some of Godlee’s earlier work. Listeners new to ANTHM notice his lyrical potency as he spits, “If knowledge is wealth, then damn, I been livin’ poor…” This track is followed by “Nina,” a track that works to separates ANTHM from Blu, in style and sound. “Men lie when they young, but then try when they old, to develop self-awareness/I been trying to uphold,” is what we get from ANTHM on this song, a reminder that he can carry the weight by virtue of his lyrical ability.
“Low Class” is the third song on this EP, and, digging a little deeper, ANTHM goes off: “They be tryin’ to let you know when you’re black or brown, nope, nope, I ain’t backin’ down” before continuing on to offer his thoughts of what a certain contingent think of people of color.
“Self Esteem” is my favorite song on Handful of Dust, and the beginning should explain why. Obviously having decided that he didn’t go deep enough on “Low Class,” ANTHM finishes the job on this one. “Society’s got me feeling like Atlas/World on my back, finally trapped us/Like Southern Baptists, surrender arms up in the atmos-/Phere/Fear in my heart of living like lived captives/They redefine blackness/I reenact Nat Turner’s tactics…” It’s refreshing to hear a young Black artist speak on issues pertaining to the Black community without lazily resorting to exclamations of “Fuck the cops!” or a similar sentiment.
The EP becomes slightly more upbeat on the “imagine nation” interlude, although ANTHM does not deviate from his conscious flow. My only beef with this selection is that it’s not even two minutes long. Luckily, we next get “Debbie,” an ode to ANTHM’s little sister. “A beautiful Black girl, highly intelligent/You can be that girl, you can be that thorough,” ANTHM raps to his younger sis. This is a track that is very sweet, but stays away from being even slightly campy.
I was frustrated once I got to the outro of Handful of Dust, only because I felt the ending came too soon. “Still Dreaming” is a great finale to a great EP, even if it is only two and a half minutes long. This is probably the only track on the EP in which Godlee’s production outshines ANTHM’s flow, which is saying a lot considering Barnes’ lively production style. “Never let my dreams die, hope they fit in this world…” is how ANTHM leaves our ears, until his next project.
If you couldn’t tell already, I absolutely love the Handful of Dust EP. Some may opine that ANTHM sounds a little too much like Blu, even though I can easily discern between the two. It would be incredible if the two were to link up and rap on the same album. Blu’s emotionally vulnerable tales and ANTHM’s socially charged lyrics would make for a truly great work of art, but for now, I’d like to extend many kudos to ANTHM for this 7-track EP. Let’s just hope he continues to churn out dope ass music.
You can download the Handful of Dust EP and some of ANTHM’s earlier work from his site.