By Jose Mujica
October 13, 2019
Verbal Van Gogh, VvG for short, is an up-and-coming rapper hailing straight out of Charlotte’s own east side. Offering a brow-raising display of lyricism in his latest album, Calm B4 The $torm, released under his own music imprint (Currency Cartel Entertainment), it’s clear by the method and the message that VvG’s artistic ambitions are not ordinary. As the nation’s eyes and ears are on the Carolinas, scouting for the next big talent to emerge out of the Queen City, many local artists are putting their best foot forward hoping to stand out. VvG doesn’t disappoint.
The LP begins with the track, “Jazzy Jeff,” which opens with a snippet from Fade to Black, before VvG’s signature style is on full display with his punchline-driven flow emphasizing witty wordplay throughout the track. The trumpets sound like something out of the Just Blaze repertoire, and the title makes it a clear homage to the golden era of hip hop that’s served as inspiration for VvG’s lyrical style. If it’s one thing the Carolinas have demonstrated, it’s that lyrics still matter in 2019 and VvG’s is a clear testament.
VvG shows that he doesn’t have to sacrifice lyricism to create a vibe on the infectious “Flooded.” With a groove one can’t resist bopping along to, VvG shows his hook game isn’t slacking on the standout track. The production is a solid combination of cloudy strings and knocking 808s that echo in your head well after the song ends. Throughout it, VvG imparts advice and lessons gleaned from his entrepreneurial hustle and spirit, simultaneously painting vivid images of his lifestyle.
Throughout the project VvG shouts his trademark phrase “No Polytheism!” crowning himself a rap god, a challenge to the other claimants to that title and casting them as false idols. Religion is another big theme through VvG’s work, seen in tracks such as “Thank God” and “New Religion.” In contrast to the loud and flamboyant persona displayed on the club-oriented singles, the VvG found in these tracks is more humble and introspective, searching for guidance and deeper meaning within his religion. Ensuring he’s not to be seen as one-dimensional, fleshing out these other sides of himself VvG does well to show how well-rounded his artistry is.
Overall, VvG’s lyrical style is refreshing to hear as it seems like wordsmith rappers have fallen by the wayside in the modern era. The themes and substance throughout remain authentic to VvG and the Carolina culture. This style also has its downside. While it sets up well structured bars to hit hard, anything less leaves it feeling a bit flat. VvG’s pen game and wordplay avoids this more often than not, but those who’ve mastered it, like Pusha T or Cyhi Tha Prynce, make every line sting. Calm B4 The $torm shows great promise and ability.