Title: Bob's Son
Artist: R.A.P Ferreira
Label: Ruby Yacht
Genre: Beat Poetry / Jazz Hip-Hop
Released: 1 January 2021
The cough bomber has returned to us
R.A.P. Ferreira, the last cough bomber
Can you even believe it, my friends?”
A lot of hip-hop music incorporates poetic elements, with it being a huge foundation of the genre as a whole. Some artists even choose to explicitly work poems and poetry into their music. Kendrick Lamar included an entire poem in his 2015 epic, “To Pimp A Butterfly, using the artform to synthesise and encapsulate the themes behind the album. Other artists, such as Watsky and Earl Sweatshirt, have used spoken word poetry as their form of choice throughout their music, as a means to structure their thoughts in a stream-of-consciousness. However, few albums explore poetry quite in the same way that R.A.P Ferreira has here with “Bob’s Son”, with Rory Ferreira directly dedicating the album to the biggest influence in his passion for beat-poetry; Bob Kaufman.
This record is a love letter to Kaufman and the beat-generation; 35 minutes of poetry over some really excellent and flavoursome production. Although the poetry is credited under the name R.A.P Ferreira and the production under the name Scallops Hotel, in reality these two monikers are one and the same, with both referring to Rory Ferreira. And before I talk about any of the album’s lyrical or thematic content, I think it’s necessary to point out just how great the beats are on this thing.
Every single track on ‘Bob’s Son’ has its own unique, colourful and interesting sound. Whether it’s the jazz-backed ‘Skrenth’, the intoxicating ‘the cough bomber’s return’, or the juxtaposing upbeat and mellow halves of ‘Redguard Snipers’, each song oozes with character. Many of the tracks incorporate blues and jazz instrumentals, which are a perfect complement for the beat-poetry style from Rory. The album sounds really great the whole way through, with my only real complaint residing with some of the vocal performances from Ferreira himself. While the lyrical content is consistently quite engaging, his delivery is sometimes fairly underwhelming. Sometimes he speaks with conviction and presence, however in a few of sections of the album there’s a lack of energy that really diminishes his lyrical ability and makes it difficult to stay focused on the music. But regardless of this, ‘Bob’s Son’ is overall a pleasant listening experience.
However, the main focus of the record is in its fascination with beat-generation poets, as well as their seminal influences and legacies. The album is explicitly centred around this, with frequent references to the history of beat poetry as well as some of its most significant figures; Greg Corso, Ted Joans, and, most notably, Bob Kaufman.
Ferreira even goes as far as to establish himself within the first two tracks as a spiritual descendent of Kaufman, with the album’s title referring to him as ‘Bob’s Son’. He also specifies himself as ‘the last Cough Bomber’, which is a light spoonerism of Kaufman’s name, something made obvious in the beginning of the last track, ‘Abomunist Manifesto’, which is a reading of Kaufman's most famous work of the same title. In this track he does, however, begin to add to the poem, replacing its final two lines with an extended excerpt of his own. And it’s a really great and beautiful addition that shows a great deal of respect for Kaufman’s work, while also using it as a direct stimulus for his own interpretation and musings.
“Abomunists never compromise their rejectionary philosophy
Abomunism's main function is to unite the soul with oatmeal cookies
Abomunists love love, hate hate, drink drinks, smoke smokes, live lives, die deaths
Abomunist writers write nothing, or they write in writing
Abomunist poetry, in order to be completely understood, should be eaten
Except on fast days, slow days, and mornings of executions”
Almost every track includes samples of soundbites from influential beat-generation poets, which along with Bob Kaufman have provided inspiration for Ferreira’s work. ‘Skrenth’ contains a brief lecture from Gregory Corso on the nature of being a poet, and the self-assurance required to follow it as a profession. In the same track, a soundbite from American poet Amiri Baraka discusses the significance of having the confidence and strength to present your own poetry to random people on the street, which Ferreira seems to have the knack for. The full title of the album; “R.A.P. Ferreira in the garden level cafe of the scallops hotel”, even frames the record almost like a live performance of Rory delivering poetry to a crowd; as if this was a fantasy of his in a world outside the current pandemic, where people could once again safely perform and express themselves in a public manner.
The poetic content on the album varies in theme and focus, however each track continues to place itself within this context of appreciation for the aforementioned beat-generation poets. ‘Listening’ describes the turbulence of modern-life, and finding joy in an aimless life despite the expectation of fitting into a societal mechanism. It finishes with an excerpt from an unidentified source which describes the importance of persistence in listening and learning from others in order to improve as a poet.
‘Rejoice’ is one of the tracks that integrates itself more firmly into the album’s core theme, as it describes the prevalence of poets who are yet to discover their passion, or who have given it up for the sake of financial stability or security. It, like much of the rest of the album, is intended as a further inspiration for people to pursue that inner motivation, and it does a nice job of this.
“You know where the poets is
Under some gutter, at the library, by the café, at the ATM
You know where the poets is
At the perfume store, in the buffet line
On a philosophical corner, drawing sevens in concrete
You know where the poets is”
However, while the lyrical/poetic content here is really excellent, it definitely feels as though Ferreira needs his platform of performing to a crowd in order to elevate it. Like I mentioned earlier, one of the weakest aspects of the album is some of the vocal delivery, and within a studio context it doesn’t feel as organic or as powerful as it should. There’s a certain rawness that is missing, which I think would work better with the style Ferreira is exploring here. While it's never bad, there's a flatness to some of the vocals, such as in 'sips of ripple wine', and 'bobby digital's little wings', that detracts from the album as a whole. And unfortunately, this does hinder the album's replay value a bit, despite the clear high level of ability that Ferreira has.
Despite this, however, this is a really worthwhile album to listen to. It’s one of the first releases of the new year, and the clear level of inspiration and admiration that Ferreira has for Bob Kaufman and various other beat-poets is enough to warrant a listen. However, despite how interesting a lot of the record is, I really can’t see myself coming back to this too often. It may grow on me as the year progresses, but there’s definitely something that is slightly missing from here keeps it from becoming truly great. Whether it needs some further integration of the album’s concept, or a bigger concentration on other aspects such as vocal intricacies, it’s difficult to say. But this is still definitely worth checking out. The production is really great, the poetry is excellent, and while Ferreira’s vocal performance is a little mixed, ‘Bob’s Son’ is still a solid record. Rory strikes me as someone with a rich understanding of the style he’s embracing here, and if he can improve on some aspects for his next project, then I see him having a really bright future ahead in the realms of beat-poetry and hip-hop.
“Activate Bob's Son
Do Bob's Son
Show me Bob's Son
Go Bob's Son
Reviewed by Layton Bryce - 12/01/21
The Album can also be listened to using the cool virtual-cafe website that Ferreira has created, which can be found here.