“In five years I see myself where Jay-Z is now”, said North Philly’s Grand Agent to the interviewer in an article printed in a Landspeed distribution catalog. Whether the Agent’s aspirations are attainable, or merely dreams remains to be seen – but in either case, By Design is the blueprint for whatever the outcome, dipping into the life and times of Jared Lee Taylor.
But don’t let the self-comparison to Jigga fool you, Grand Agent is his own emcee, and more so his own person. By no means is he trying to emulate the sound of any other rapper, as his style is completely his own the only similarity to Jay is a clever sense of subtle wordplay that only reveals itself after consecutive listens. His voice, delivery, style, and overall calmness on the mic are qualities that all belong to the Agent alone.
He can be best described as a rapper’s rapper he takes himself seriously, he’s very unpredictable in his rhymes, has an underlying sense of wit and intellect, not mention gorgeous picture painting abilities. Unfortunately, these qualities are appreciated by few, but will remain overlooked by many. But your favorite rappers have taken notice, and show no shame in tag teaming with him, as he trades rhymes with the likes of Lord Finesse ( “Know The Legend” ), A.G. ( “Rap Niggaz” ), and Planet Asia ( “It’s Only Right” ).
Grand Agent’s best moments are when he’s the most open with his audience. On “You Don t Love Me”, where he speaks out to his long lost father, you can feel his pain; equally so on the painted narrative “Waughter”, which deals with the illusions and discovered pointlessness of a long distance relationship. His love and experiences in the world of hip-hop are also beautifully defined on the Kutmasta Kurt produced, “Every Five Minutes”, as well as the Hi-Teknological “It’s Only Right” (w/ Planet Asia ).
Yet things don t go over quite as smoothly when Agent takes the production chores into his own hands. “The Man Who Would Be King” suffers from one of the worst hooks of the year – a b-boy flip on Yuletide classic “Joy To The World”, which is embarrassing as it is awful. Other moments of boredom include the misogynistic “Two Bitches” , as well as the somewhat sleepy intro, “From The Gate” Let it be known that none of these tracks are particularly bad lyrically – they just lack quality production.
Which pretty much sums up the entire album, despite sliding by with tracks from the more experienced producers (M-Boogie, Chops of Mountain Bros., Lord Finesse, Kurt, Tekzilla). Make no mistake, Agent is a dope emcee, but as far as making songs, he just needs to learn to harness his talent and tighten things up musically if he wants to breakthrough and catch a dedicated following. In a wounded moment, he wonders on “Waughter”: “What the fuck am I still rhymin for / If I ain t blow yet, I must got bad timing, or / It ain t for me / could that possibly be?” Grand Agent can rest easy in the fact that he was meant to rhyme, but if he aspires to be in the position Jay-Z is in now, he must continue to perfect his craft, not giving up because of minimal independent sales, average critical response, or worst of all, a broken heart. Keep on, G.A.
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