With his bassy voice, Triangle rapper Edgar Allen Floe—the soi-disant "Justus League GZA"—nearly made one of my ex-girlfriends leave me to find a man with a bit more boom in his voice. It did a harsh number on my ego, sure, but who could deny the gentlemanly impression Floe and producer 9th Wonder left when they made the messianic pledge "The Righteous Way to Go" by sampling Curtis Mayfield. I couldn't, and apparently she couldn't either.
But the question with Floe and his bottomless voice has long been this: Can his monotone rap sequences keep someone from getting drowsy halfway through his full-length, if and when he releases one? And there's the corollary, of course: Is that the thunderous voice of God rapping at me, or just a rapper with vocal chords made out of space-age alloy?
A couple of mixtapes and a brief stay on the Shaman Work Recordings label later, Mr. Floe has finally released his official debut, The Streetwise LP, on his own label, MCEO Records. Despite all of the concern with intonation here, Floe raps from a pulpit of authority that not many emcees rival. "Arrest the President (Cypher God)" finds Floe's black militancy intact—armed with five-percenter theology, Egyptology and nationalism, all spit over a rapid drum-rumble. Until now, you've never heard Floe rap so fast about such serious topics, and he sticks it, tumbling over the self-produced beat like an anvil doing a series of front layouts.
Such tracks offer the sort of welcome versatility that we haven't really seen from many Justus League emcees. There's nothing wrong with the "sample-chopped, snare-heavy" formula we're all used to from the League. In fact, Floe lets the usual alchemy happen with 9th Wonder on "The Hit," "Shine" and album opener "What It Is," which features fellow JL'er Median. His prepubescent-esque voice offers welcome, priceless contrast to start the album. But even more priceless is the fact we finally have a finished E.A. Floe LP that's pretty good. I do hope my new girlfriend hates it, though.
Edgar Allen Floe releases The Streetwise LP Friday, Nov. 14, at The Brewery at 9:30 p.m. with Henrock, Willie Evans Jr., Dope Sandwich and Battle Squad. 9th Wonder DJs.