"Success marks the first collaboration between local MCs Sheem One and Jorai Williams, and the title is a fitting one. The common theme uniting the record’s 19 tracks is the pursuit of one’s dreams and the internal and external conflicts that can threaten to interfere when the dreamer insists on writing the rules. There are also fluid meditations on women (“Ole Girl,” “Your Love), the joys and struggles of fatherhood (“I Ain’t Got Time,” “Push”), and day-to-day tasks like balancing the checkbook (“Fly”). But Sheem and Jorai never stray too far lyrically from their shared belief that real, honest success can’t come from anything but intuition, and hard work doesn’t stop for anything except tucking in the kids. The most striking thing about Success is how unrelenting the album is in its commitment to positivity. These guys are for real. They dote on their women. They don’t use swear words. They don’t smoke weed. They’re critical of the hero worship that can negatively influence young fans (“If rappers are your heroes then they’re failin’ ya/ If you’re locked behind bars they ain’t bailin’ ya”) and, indeed, there’s no trace of the braggadocio and self-involved opulence that permeates so much of mainstream hip-hop. Philosophically, Sheem and Jorai are more in line with artists like Dead Prez, but without the militancy and adoration for conspiracy theories.
Both guys possess laidback, conversational rapping styles that push the lyrics front and center, and there isn’t any doubt that the message, for them, is everything. And the music is likewise low-key, jibing easily with their alternately confessional and motivational sermons without ever sounding passive or phoned-in. Female backup singers, non-intrusive beats, and soul-infused hooks are all over the place, recalling the East Coast sound that dominated much of ‘90s hip-hop. And that’s another part of Success’s appeal—the love these guys have for the Palmetto state, and Columbia in particular, is in plain evidence. They namedrop everything from churches they grew up attending to specific streets they hung out on as kids.
It’s hard to find fault in an album this earnest, not that it would matter if you did. They aren’t the least bit vague in the assuredness that their cause is right and proper, and I’m in no position to disagree. I haven’t heard either of their work without the other, but Success is proof that a shared vision between two original talents, along with a pay-the-car-insurance-or-die-trying attitude, can yield something unique and worthwhile. You should be rooting for ‘em." – Michael Spawn
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