Every time a new N0va recording is released, I feel a shiver of delight. For one I already know the quality, – production wise, flow-wise and lyrically – that this Richmond Hill based rap artist is bringing to the table. Secondly he is one of the nicest guys I have had the pleasure of working with. Put all those traits together and you have star quality potential coming out of this guy’s pores. In fact I’m astonished N0va hasn’t broken through the indie wall into major league territory yet. We obviously have some A&R people sleeping on the job. Though egoistically, it simply means that we get to savor this man’s talents, quite exclusively for just a little more. And for those who don’t know N0va yet, his brand new mixtape release “Lessons and Blessings” is a damn good way to start.
“Lessons and Blessings” is an epic 22 tracks long with a list of producers that will blow your mind, including MF Doom remixed. After listening to this I get the feeling that N0va must really be tired of being rap’s most underrated artist. Can you blame him? He’s dropped 4 solid progressive mixtapes, at least one of which can easily be in the conversation as one of the greatest underground mixtapes of the last few years. His resume speaks for itself.
The probable vexation that comes with being immensely talented yet constantly overlooked fuels “Lessons and Blessings”, a mega mixtape that wrestles with the duality of being a diligent, overachieving, aspiring rap star and a growing young man experiencing life in all directions.
Unless you’re new around here, you probably know my stance on double albums or extended mixtapes – nine times out of 10, it’s a case of too much of a good thing. However, N0va proves that it’s possible to create a mega set without overloading the listener. In fact despite the mixtape’s heft it never drags, feeling like an epic coming-of-age blockbuster instead of a long, drawn-out exercise in overwhelming hype.
“Lessons and Blessings” is huge, ambitious, and easily one of the best mixtapes of 2017. The message in “Selfish Eyes” – Produced by B. Young x Abel Petit is layered by production that’s as soothing as a spring breeze. And when it comes to production, this mixtape doesn’t lack for memorable beats.
N0va finds balance here. He crafts rhymes in a modern, emo-driven style on tracks like “Too much to learn” – Figaro Remix – MF DOOM and “Status Quo” – Produced by Lucid Soundz, making him an excellent contemporary of people like Kendrick Lamar and Earl Sweatshirt, while on tracks like “Swervin’” – Produced by CashMoneyAp x CedDidIt and “Pennywise” – Produced by TheBeatPlug he recalls the greatness of Outkast and the Pharcyde.
He’s also able to get some strangely funky progressive edges on “No Team” – Produced by Josh Petruccio x Pilgrim Beats and “Tongue Tied” – Produced by Noise system. And we’re not even halfway through the album yet!
Whereas the first part of the mixtape leans more heavily on the visceral dimensions of its creator’s lyricism, the second part elevates his penchant for the cerebral. Hence stunning tracks like “Oh Lord” – Produced by The Beat Plug, “Spider’s Web” – Produced by Abel Petit, “Heart of Stone” – Produced by B. Young and “Matchstick” – Produced by CashMoneyAP.
These cuts are packed with ambition and show immense versatility and insight. If you are a hip-hop fan with eclectic tastes, these are the tracks for you. With his flows and the production, N0va proves to be a malleable, dynamic force.
The most poignant and musically interesting moments appear on the bonus tracks, “Shooting Stars” – Produced by Lucid Soundz and “Blood and Sweat” – Produced by Sun God, which proves my point that this guy never lets up. Not until the very last song plays.
N0va mines emotional depths and exorcises demons with a lucidity and sincerity seldom heard these days on contemporary hip-hop records. So go ahead, keep sleeping on Shawn Nova aka N0va – it’s just fueling his fire to become even greater, and Hip-hop is reaping the benefits!