A baseball player, a New York Yankee, a Hall of Fame catcher: These are the things we typically remember about the late Yogi Berra
. Being a rapper? Not so much.
But consider his love of language and his wry wit, buried in his zany sentences, and it’s not so difficult to imagine that Berra was a dope emcee a few generations ahead of his time. That’s the thinking of rising Raleigh rapper NANCE
, at least, who enlists fellow Triangle spitters Tab-One and Drique London on his new song, “Yogi Berra,” in advance of his promising upcoming EP, Everything I Need
With the backing of NovaTheProducer’s bouncy beat, Tab-One, NANCE and Drique shoot the breeze about interplanetary travel, the Himalayas, Rubik’s cubes … pretty much anything that suits their fancy. That’s a space in which Tab has shined for years; his rapid-fire verse is easily the song’s best.
It’s a strong assemblage of Raleigh hip-hop acts, spanning a range of styles and experience levels, and NANCE’s persistent work in expanding his network and profile over the past year deserves credit here. The combination of voices here doesn’t just create a better song but also forces a kind of friendly competition.
But this perk turns out to be a thorn in NANCE’s side, as the artist suffers by comparison to his more experienced collaborators. Within a few seconds on the mic in “Yogi Berra,” NANCE misses: “Flow (Flo) so progressive (Progressive), no pun intended.” But the pun is
intended, and he knows it. Over and over again throughout the song, he depends on too many similes. He’s proactive (Proactiv), so there’s no blemish. His engineer mixes songs “like a chemist.” He spits tracks until his mouth is numb, like he just “left the dentist," and so on. Even the song’s title is a surface-level simile, with NANCE rapping, “dropping more quotables than Yogi Berra.”
Wasting precious words exhaustively comparing one pop culture reference to the next prevents NANCE from taking listeners anywhere emotionally or narratively, as London does in some of the song’s closing lines:
“The three of us, went from rockin’ them local pubs,
To sellin’ out Kings, I figured that crown is what we deserve/
But when they see you they nod but never notice your worth,
So I lay low and keep approaching until I conquer the earth.”
NANCE is still young, and we still have an EP full of new songs to digest. There’s a lot to like about the bubbling Triangle rapper; he exudes a natural stage presence and keeps his rhymes reliably in-the-pocket. He just needs to focus less on “dropping quotables” and more on dropping some of his more superficial wordplay.