Reviews:: Mindbender - Better Late Than Never Made

Although the recent advent of "emo rap" (oyy, that name) might suggest otherwise, bravado remains an important arrow in any MC's lyrical quiver. The ability to convey exactly why it is you are so dope, and everyone else is not, remains as fundamental to hip hop as shelltoes and high-top fades. But is there such a thing as too much bravado? Can too much blind faith in your abilities have an adverse effect on the music you make and inhibit your growth as an MC? It would seem so.

Unless you have some kind of hang up about reading blog post titles, you know the album that inspired that kind of gloomy first paragraph is the new digital only release, Better Late Then Never Made, from Toronto's Mindbender. I didn't know much about Bender, so I consulted the good doctor Google to get up to speed, and it seems he's quite the vet. Rhyming and performing since the early 90's, Mindbender is also a writer for Pound magazine and has acted as host for one of Toronto's longest running open mic nights. I also found a forum where Bender posted an early cut of this album, received some harsh criticism, and summarily dismissed most of it out of hand, insisting that he was on a level above the other posters and they didn't get what he was trying to do.

I admit I don't know anything about this forum, and it could be frequented by the most jaded wannabee MC's ever, but the reason I mention it is because I think a lot of people aren't likely going to get what bender is trying to do. What I mean is this: Mindbender is a clever dude, and he is a solid writer as far as the lyrics go, but he has a tremendously wordy, off-beat style. He often crams so much into each verse that not only is the listener struggling to digest what he's kicking, but often bender himself struggles to fit everything in before the chorus.

The intention here isn't to lay on the doom and gloom, as there are some good moments on here. The subtle G. Stokes beat on the opener Dreamer has a mighty catchy sample, and provides a solid backdrop for Bender's spacey dream talk. I think the awkward pairing of the reggae beat and Bender's off-beat flow kind of works on Thank God For Toronto, plus it's hard to argue with his diagnosis of "Canada's internal cancer which is lack of passion for anything but beer, rock & roll & hockey". Kind of stereotypical, but also kind of true. The Canada theme continues on the South Park inspired Blame Canada, which finds bender shouting out not only Honest Ed and Canadian hip hop pioneer Devon ("you think you're king of Toronto, you aren't even a Mr. Metro" Hey, hey, na-na-na-na-na!) but also a plethora of other Toronto rap talent.

It's hard to argue with Mindbender's assertion that Toronto has the ability to match hip hop talent with any city, and I appreciate his self-confidence, but it's hard to ignore the fact that his style has a limited appeal. I don't mind getting cerebral with my hip hop, and I don't need a ton of the head-nod factor to enjoy a song, but let's face it, some head-nod is a good thing. By about the sixth song I needed a break. That's strictly my opinion though, and if you're looking to check out some Canadian hip hop that's different from your average, give Mindbender a go.

MP3:: Mindbender - Thank God For Toronto


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