Released on March 5th, 2018, Canadian Rapper N0va’s new album “Checkmate” is his 5th full-length release and drops just a few months after his previous album “Lessons and Blessings”. Described as an album that “explores the idea of collateral damage, a retrospective and introspective insight into the artist and his attempt to leave a legacy,” there are dozens of moments filled with nostalgic, 2000s-era hip-hop to be heard here. It’s one of the Toronto’s emcee’s most ambitious and darkest efforts to date. The art of storytelling is something that has seemingly disappeared from current hip-hop. Disregard a handful of the well-intended, old-school influenced emcees of today — and hip-hop seems to be a ghost town. Mumble rap nowadays, fill up egos and bank accounts and seem to matter more than lyrical content. Hip-hop no longer seems concerned about the artistic aspect of the profession, ready to move on and sell out.
This leaves a massive window of opportunity for artists like N0va. He is one of the finest underground storytellers, both charismatic and passionate. He spits tales of his life, friends, doubters, weed and chasing his ambitions. In many ways, N0va is crafting a role as the guy who is going to make it, against all odds and naysayers. He seems to have it all: drive, passion, and talent.
Right out of the gate, the album demonstrates its mettle with the kaleidoscopic “Own up” – Produced by JoeMay, a veritable state of the moment for N0va that covers more ground in three and a half minutes than most rappers’ entire mixtapes. “I been aiming for the top of the list of legends / I ain’t too fragile all rough no crystal edges.”
“Never Forget Me” – Produced by Josh Petruccio is outrageously ambitious, filled with lush production and a relentless flow – “I Keep the weed fresh in a canister / Ima hold the game up like a bannister / I been Killing all the kings like a Lannister / Tryna be a Legend, Legend.” But the lyrical content continues to be striking and rich throughout, marking N0va’s spot as a quixotic storyteller.
The chronological order in which the record is delivered helps the flow of the album bringing dozens of moments filled with highlights between production and lyrics. These moments seem to back up N0va as he finds and exposes his inner voice through the entire effort.
It’s very much like you’re sitting in N0va’s frantic mind wading through his thoughts like a photo album. His lyrics paints pictures that are almost photo-realistic, and on a track like “Cutting Edge” – Feat. Still Waters – Produced by Cecil, he lets you in to decide if the paranoia in his head has reason to exist.
Throughout the album he juggles with diverse mindsets. “Shot Me Instead” – Produced by Soul Goodman, looks at becoming a legend after death, as N0va waxes nostalgic over the passing of Biggie and Tupac, coming to a conclusion – “I want the fame, I want the bars to stick in your head / That’s why I wish they fucking shot me instead.”
N0va is an excellent narrator, and that talent shines throughout his raw lyrical content in must listen tracks like: “Not The Same” – Produced by JoeMay, “High and Dry” – Produced by Showbeat, “Checkmate” – Produced by Tone Jonez and “Cold Blooded” – Produced by JoeMay.
He puts you knee-deep into the story of his life no matter what the angle. N0va once again shows through his artistry and storytelling capabilities that he is a rapper that deserves far more eyes and ears. On “Checkmate” he has a personal story that begs to be listened to, and I’ll be sitting here until his next project to see how N0va consumes the hip-hop world.