In the “Opening Remarks” of Vocab Slick’s latest album, Language, the longtime hip-hop performer lays out his mission in music:
“This is an invitation of engagement / An invitation to listen to my art, my language, my expression / A language encompassing all emotion: love, sadness, joy, anger and confidence / This is how I communicate. This is my therapy. This is my language.”
Over the course of the next 17 tracks, Vocab Slick takes the listener on a vernacular journey that touches on those emotions and more with the help of several guest artists and his own neverending glossary of rhymes and beats.
Repping the 707 his whole life, the Santa Rosa-based artist has been freestyling since he was a teen, and got serious about hip-hop after battling addictions and going through tough times, including jail time.
“I got out of jail and started taking my life more seriously, then my music became more serious,” Vocab Slick says. “Then I became clean and sober, and so there was a need for me to have an outlet, and music became that for me. It just so happens that people like what I do.”
Wordplay is a staple of Vocab Slick’s hip-hop, and his use of language—along with his super slicked-back hair—earned him his nickname early on.
For the new album, the rapper employs all of his vocabulary skills to create an engaging collection of songs that encompass classic hip-hop vibes, soulful serenades and just enough swagger to keep the beat moving forward.
Throughout Language, Vocab Slick speaks on his own personal experiences and the strength he finds in music and community, and several local performers join him on the album.
Petaluma artist Simoné Mosely lends her amazing vocals to the track “When I’m Here,” also featuring San Francisco rapper Equipto; Sebastopol rapper J. Lately gets on mic for the laid-back track “Moment Like This,” along with Sacramento artist Z Rokk; and Santa Rosa rapper Dela The Fella is one of several guests on the street-smart track “1122.” Other guests include The Grouch of Living Legends and the late Zumbi of Zion I. Vocab Slick also notes that friend and producer Starski was elemental to the record’s sound.
Touring as much as possible last year, Vocab Slick sees Santa Rosa getting more recognition for its hip-hop community, and he appreciates the camaraderie of the North Bay’s music scene.
“I’ve been everywhere,” he says. “And I don’t want to live anywhere else.”