The hip-hop industry is obsessed with hype, with declaring who's got next. The culture spits out and discards trends as fast as it embraces them—remember DJ Khaled's Snapchat?
But Raleigh emcee Tab-One stands out for the most delightfully novel of rapping reasons: for nearly a decade, he's just been himself. On the thirteen-track Sincerely, Tab, the first Kooley High-associated release since last year's Heights EP, Tab and producer Sinopsis stick to their soulful roots rather than following new fads. The result is a heartfelt, genuine record that, though occasionally missing the mark, ultimately resonates.
"I wish that we could be more critical of leaders, and stop idolizing all these idiots and divas," offers Tab on the Carlitta Durand-assisted "Don't Love." This is a frequent theme for Tab here, who laments a world lived through photo filters and disappearing videos, from the single "Electric" to "Keep Moving."
As a persistent emcee who has continued to cultivate his craft despite a lack of fame, his contempt for vanity and validation is both understandable and welcome. More important, he doesn't seem particularly concerned with stardom. On the standout "M.O.B.," which features one area rhymer who has risen through the ranks, King Mez, Sinopsis's rippling synths ebb and flow inside a dynamic background for Tab: "It is not my aim, to make it in the game/I see it as an opportunity to make a change."
Having spent enough time in hip-hop to have brushed shoulders with legends, seen friends and bandmates become famous, moved out-of-state to pursue music, and returned to start a family, Tab is the rare cautionary tale with a happy ending. He's an artist who didn't "make it in the game," but wasn't crushed by it either. On Sincerely, Tab, he suggests a boom-bap version of those pharmaceutical advertisement disclaimers, as though he's telling rappers: "Hip-hop stardom is not for everyone. Talk to your doctor to find out if it's right for you." The result isn't always riveting, with tracks like "One Life" and "World Tour" wandering too much for their own good, but it is unquestionably honest. Use as directed, hip-hop. —Ryan Cocca