Ahmen – Per Aspera Ad Astra

 Ahmen – Per Aspera Ad Astra

Ahmen – Per Aspera Ad Astra – Album Review

You know…if I didn’t know for a complete FACT that Ahmen is out there in this world, talkin’ the truth to anyone/everyone that’ll listen, each and every day…then I’d probably be like YO…it’s been a significant amount of time since we last had a new record from him up on these pages of ours & on your playlists.  The thing is, he’s got so much important work to do that…well…I wouldn’t say that the music necessarily comes second, but he really does have a ton of other things goin’ on, speaking as a featured guest at all kinds of different events & whatnot, doin’ his level best to educate the masses and be THAT DISRUPTOR that embraces the spirit of good trouble…I mean…you get the point, he’s a very busy dude.  And when you look at things from that macro point of view, you begin to understand we’re lucky that Ahmen ever gets a couple minutes of spare time to make another record.  The man’s never been anything less than impressive whether he’s speaking to audience or spittin’ lyrics to a crowd – I’ve loved the records I’ve heard from him in the past like The Eleven, and Timeout from back in 2017 when I first started listening to him…Ahmen knows his way around words so incredibly well, that nothing I could ever write will do his work enough justice.  The best way I can put it, is that this is one of those artists that inspires ME.

Rap & Hip-Hop are havin’ a damn good week here at our pages y’all.  Considering we just ranted and raved about Conscience Rhyme’s latest record Jacqui’s Son, and now we get the opportunity to check out what Ahmen’s been up to as well?  Listen to the way that Per Aspera Ad Astra starts out will ya?  The intro alone will blow your mind, no joke.  “Our Defiance (Intro)” featuring Aaron Colverson and Nolan Koskela-Staples is beyond magnificent, and sets the standard straight outta the gate.  From the orchestral-esque vibes provided by extraordinary instrumentation, to the way Ahmen commands a microphone, to the wonderfully warped hum of sound in behind all that…the poetry comes out as superb as it ever has, and confirms that, while he might have been out of the spotlight for a minute or two, the man himself is as sharp as ever.  “Oh you thought that this is a hobby,” he asks?  No sir.  Not even for a single moment.  “Our Defiance (Intro)” instantly made me realize just how much I’ve missed this dude’s voice at the heart of our music scene; the world needs the perspective of artists like Ahmen.

Not only is he as sharp as he’s ever been or revealed to ya in the past – he’s beyond that…I listen to a track like “OD” and can’t help but conclude this is Ahmen at the top of his game.  Don’t get it twisted – there’s a MASSIVE chance that the very next time I listen to a new Ahmen record, I’ll feel the same way all over again…but that’s just the thing – when you’re continuously moving forward, your current work is genuinely your best work.  So “Light’em up!” and get this record rollin’ y’all – Per Aspera Ad Astra is going to be one of the best things you’ll put through your speakers all year, and it’s real food for the mind.  Flowing straight from the intro into “OD” and featuring Aaron Colverson and Nolan Koskela-Staples in the mix once again, Ahmen found the right sound & inspiration to bring out his best for ya.  A wordsmith to the nth degree, you’ll find that ever-present social commentary you know & love about his music is still as real as it has ever been, and that Ahmen ain’t afraid to make a few bold claims along the way as he reclaims the throne where he damn well belongs.  Personally, I’m really digging the whole vibe here…the music is brilliantly atmospheric, the lyricism is as killer as ever, and the star of the show, who is “known as a menace” embraces every single word he spits, putting conviction and strength into every syllable in a way that powerfully resonates in your mind long after the sound has stopped spinnin.’  The precision this guy spits with is straight-up incredible…not only with his pace, but with his messages and the insight to be found within his words.  He knows how to make the most of his time on the m-i-c.

To the teachers that promised that I’d be nothing…to the teachers who called it that I’d be somethin’” – Ahmen exudes confidence on the mic, and justifiably so.  He’s “all alone in my zone with my passion” as he’ll tell ya, and as a result of that extreme level of focus, you’re getting the very best of Ahmen to-date.  “The man in the mirror’s my competition” – and he ain’t wrong about that as far as my ears can tell.  There would be very few out there that could keep up to this dude…maybe a fraction of the many dimensions of his talent…like you might find someone out there with the speed, but not the intellect, or vice versa, you get the point – Ahmen’s the complete package.  MAYBE Prev-1, or Daveed Diggs would give him a run for his money…but that’s pretty much the most you’ll find me conceding to ya – shout-out to .clipping!  We’re talkin’ about hallowed ground though y’all…Ahmen makes his moves with such purpose that it blows my mind – like, I WISH that everyone had this level of focus in everything they do.  It’s completely because he’s so invested in the greatness of all that he does, that you continually get the best of him at every moment.  Ahmen’s the kind of guy that, like…if he wasn’t able to focus on these songs when it came time to make’em at long last, I don’t think he’d even bother, you feel me?  Ahmen’s all about that 100% when it comes time to do ANYTHING he does, and he never disappoints in that regard.  Sure there are some boastful aspects of a track like “All Alone” when it comes right down to it – and if it WAS ego-driven, I suppose I’d be here to tell ya that.  The reality is, his confidence is justified – there are so very few that can do ALL of the things he’s able to do at once, and that’s the truth.  He IS “All Alone” more or less, in a field of very few professionals that would be able to claim they’ve got even a 10th of the skills he’s got.  From the thoughts in his mind, to the talent he puts into his music, the man only knows one gear, and that’s to “dominate at all costs” and “burn the bridge behind” him as he goes.

“Love Letter” is definitely a track I’d be looking at as a single if I was Ahmen…it’s got the brightness and upbeat vibe that is bound to draw people in, and it still contains the heart of his message without having to compromise, you follow me?  Even the best artists you know often end up surrendering what they really want to say in order to create a hit or single-worthy cut that’ll entice people into listening – but not Ahmen, no.  This dude still keeps the intellectual aspect of his music at the forefront and somehow finds a way to surround that with single-worthy sound to support him.  Truth be told, his personality IS the main hook when it comes right down to it, but shout-out to Angelica Sky for being sensational in the backing vocals too, and Jeremy Paxton for the contributions he makes to this track as well.  All-in-all, you’ll listen to “Love Letter” and know this is what it sounds like when a collaboration goes RIGHT – there’s not a moment out of place here, and it’s an insanely catchy cut too.  The brightness keeps on shinin’ – and that’s of real significance here…it’s outright crucial when it comes to grabbing the attention of the masses, and every opportunity that Ahmen gives himself to do that, gives his message that many more opportunities to spread & help evolve this floating rock we’re all spinning on.  Authenticity, passion, commitment, dedication…these things MATTER…activism without these elements, would most certainly fall flat.  You listen to the gravitational pull that a track like “Love Letter” has and you realize that Ahmen’s got the kind of charisma that makes him a natural born leader destined to break ground.

I once wrote a song called “Your Art Will Kill You” – because that to me, is the way life SHOULD go if you’re living it right.  Doesn’t matter to me if your art is in business, or your art is in music – the point I was making was to do what you love with everything you’ve got, and let that be where you find yourself in your final moments.  Could there be a better way to go?  Hell no.  I want to be straight murdered by my passions, and I can only hope you’ll all feel the same one day.  The sad reality is that most people don’t even find what their passions in life even ARE…so we do the daily grind, running on that treadmill, afraid to get off because it’s the only thing we know – and fuck that.  “Burn out, burn out, burn out” as Ahmen will tell ya on “Be Strong (Interlude)” – I suspect he’s making the same points as I’ve been talking about, and to further the point – he’s leading by example.  “If not now, then when” as he says – which is a theme you’ll find in his spoken-word events too beyond his music as a professional motivator; Ahmen employs the “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” mentality because we’ve all got TOO MUCH to do in one lifetime if you’re really awake and living each & every day to the fullest.  So while I truly do appreciate where his therapist is coming from and I’m sure he does too, we’ve gotta respectfully decline the notion of slowing down when it’s actually our duty to inspire, motivate, and encourage the rest of y’all to SPEED UP and attack this one life you’ve got at every opportunity.  Make the most of those minutes folks…it’s crucial.

Never settle for an ordinary outcome” – #TRUTH & wisdom is being spit atcha all over this new record from Ahmen if you’re paying attention dear readers, dear friends…this masterful mischief-maker knows the best kind of trouble is rooted in positivity, empowerment, and the confidence that YOU can make tomorrow even better than it is today.  “This is more than music” as you’ll hear in the hooks of “Here” – and that’s as accurate as I could ever put it myself, so use Ahmen’s words, not mine.  I’ve talked nonstop about the guy’s greatness on the mic and his lyricism – but credit to the production too y’all – Per Aspera Ad Astra sounds spectacular at all times, and the real definition & punch you wanna hear in the music exists everywhere you wanna find it.  Even in more delicate vibes like the soulful sound of “Here” you’ll find the bass comes through loud & proud, giving Ahmen the opportunity to flex his intensity or dial it back into the piano-led sound at the core of this cut if he chooses to.  He advocates on behalf of education, he’s a champion of knowledge at this point in his own life, and he’s genuinely leading an entire movement…a revolution of the mind, aimed at inspiring everyone paying attention to reach the greatness of their own potential.  I know I appreciate his efforts, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that.  If you have a look at his pages online, trust me, you’ll quickly learn that it ain’t just words – Ahmen’s BTA at all times, and continues to serve as a loyal disrupter to the rules, to the system, to the status-quo.  When you’re gifted with the foresight to understand there’s a better path than the one we seem to be on – you put that into action like Ahmen does for the betterment of one & all.  Like I’ve said many times throughout this review, and the past ones I’ve written on his music I’m sure, the entire planet benefits from the kind of insight he’s willing to share with you – “this is more than music” – it’s a lifelong mission.

I love hero ball, gettin’ clutch shots like the 4th in the garden…”  Huh?  What channel have YOU been watching Ahmen?  For like…you know…the past like…what – twenty years since Ewing now?  Are we really talkin’ about the Knicks, or just the building itself?  I’m kidding around obviously…we’ve all got our team, and none of us are impervious to a little ridicule for the choices we make in that regard.  I’ll put it to ya this way – I’ve been riding with James Harden, aka THE BEARD since his days in Houston…and if you don’t think I’ve taken my fair share of shit over the past several years for that choice, think again – I get scorched on that all the time & keep praying for the day he gets that ring he deserves to prove everyone wrong once & for all.  I digress.  “Aiyiyo” is a lot of fun to listen to, while at the same time, making the same amount of relevant points along the way about society, celebrity culture, and the way we filter the knowledge we’re given.  “You can feel these degrees!” – he ain’t wrong…this dude is capable of scorching the earth as he raps.  “You can’t walk in my shoes, you’re just a footnote.”  I mentioned this guy being a wordsmith in here somewhere, right?  I did?  Okay – great – I meant that.  “One thing y’all have in common – you got nothing on Ahmen.”  Trust me…you listen to a track like “Aiyiyo” and do your level best to keep up to just how many kickass lines he’s put into this cut.  You end up being thankful he’s taken a more simplified/traditional approach to the main hooks because it gives you a chance to catch up!  That’s my way of saying he’s completely out-written himself between the distance of the verses and chorus…I don’t mind the hooks of “Aiyiyo,” but I’m listening for the verses personally.  On the bright side, if that’s the case, that usually means the chorus & hooks are going to have more widespread appeal when it comes to the masses…and that’s a good thing.  I gotta give the guy a hard time in what little opportunities I get…this dude’s too incredible at what he does, and it’s freakishly rare we could call him out on anything at all.  In fact, I’m still not if you’re reading this right – I’m basically pointing out that he’s got a track in “Aiyiyo” that makes for single-worthy potential y’all.

“Turn Around” ain’t that far off in that regard either…I’d be mighty tempted to put this track out as THE single from Per Aspera Ad Astra…I feel like it’s got that much more of a relevant vibe for what’s happening out there in the scene right in the here & now.  A lot of that, is actually credit to J La Sol and the way these hooks come out too – Ahmen’s found a tremendous selection of guest-stars on this album and introduced us to some fantastic artists throughout this whole set of songs.  I’m a massive fan of people using their platform for the greater good – and not only does Ahmen do that with the multiple knowledge bombs he detonates through your speakers, but he also raises the level of the entire scene along with him by adding more artists to his music in collaboration as well.  As infrequent as the case would ever be that you’d find anyone rivaling the potential for your attention, J La Sol probably gives Ahmen the biggest run for his money…I’m pretty split on the two of them when it comes to what they add to this track and the many reasons as to why we’ll all LOVE it as much as every one of us will.  It’s actually quite spectacular to have such a balance of extraordinary skills on “Turn Around” – I’ve enjoyed every guest appearance on this record, but I think I’ve gotta give the number-one collaboration on the album the shout-out it deserves – this is THAT track.  I’d probably go as far as to say that, for the many years I’ve been listening to Ahmen’s music, I think this is potentially the most single-worthy cut I’ve heard the man put onto a record to-date.  At the very least, it’s right up there…credit where credit is due, his track “Illuminate” with Breana Marin still holds up brilliantly to this very day too.  “Turn Around” is all-out irresistible from the hooks to the bars, and you simply couldn’t ask for anything more than what Ahmen & J La Sol put into every moment.

Per Aspera Ad Astra…by definition, it means “through adversity to the stars” – a phrase that communicates the determined spirit that Ahmen brings not only to his music, but to his life overall.  “Uppercase” is a stellar ending to this experience, although it does introduce a theme that’s equally heartbreaking as it is inspired…much of this final track is an homage to his father, who has passed on.  He’s left behind one heck of a son, that much I can tell ya…as I’ve already mentioned, we’re fortunate to have an artist like Ahmen who has taken the wisdom of his father and pushed his legacy even further by continuing to pursue his greatness every single day with the blueprint his dad originally provided.  To be real with ya, I’m not sure I’ve heard a solitary second’s worth of anything I’d remotely change.  Dude’s put everything he’s got into every minute of his music here…an audible allegory to the way he chooses to live his life…and it’s been nothing less than impressive from beginning to end.  I’m a big fan of artists that are unafraid to get real personal with us as listeners…and I felt like “Uppercase” gives you a glimpse of the humble & vulnerable side of Ahmen in a way that the rest of the set hasn’t, which made for a very unique & memorable ending that confirms he is actually human after all, just like you & me.  Though, when he starts playing with time, tempo, and pace as brilliantly as he does on “Uppercase” you’ll start to wonder about that all over again…that’s definitely a superhuman moment and completely awesome.  He’s pushed himself at every opportunity to be great…in doing so, he’s honored the legacy of his father in the best of ways, and in the process, given every listener the opportunity to evolve along with him.

Thank-you Ahmen.

Find out more about him from his official website at:  https://ahmen.us

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