Album Review: Eric Biddines - planetcoffeebean 2
Words: Adria Bani, Ali Jones-Bey and Erica Castello / October 23, 2014
Rebellion is in the id of hip-hop. We love this music for its fearless rejection of the status quo, the youthful energy of its sound. But hip-hop has grown up over the last four decades, blooming into a layered and complex organism - rebellious, but fervently connected. A living history of artistic expression is nourishing for the emerging artist, and singer and rapper Eric Biddines rises from generations of fertile Southern ground.
Planetcoffeebean 2 is the most recent of several independent releases from South Florida artist Eric Biddines, and commands a style both unique and recognizable. Biddines voice, influenced heavily by the likes of Outkast, resonates with a natural comfort and organic depth. The beats layer past and future smoothly, with soul-funk flavor and polished production.
But Biddines doesn’t stick with comfort. By the second track on PLCB2, “Railroads Down/Unfinished,” he strikes a distinguishing chord. Over a beat that he produced, the Southern rapper sings with uncluttered realness, channeling the narrative of a slave escaping a plantation. The track brings together the sounds of crickets, claps, and stomping footsteps as Eric’s story unfolds. The subject matter and use of metaphor reveal a raw honesty (reminiscent of the commentary on Goodie M.O.B.‘s Soul Food.) The focus on slavery (with some painfully poignant parallels to modern-day industry) isn’t at everyone’s level of understanding or comfort, but this is by design -Biddines and his team knew it was a risk. And as he explained recently, a meaningful history lesson is worth taking the chance:
“There was some people who were afraid of it, just because it’s a touchy topic, and we understood before we even released it that it wouldn’t be received and supported by all outlets. I grew up in the South, so it was a totally different view during my youth in the school system. There was very little information compared to what friends and family were being exposed to in other areas. There’s parts of the South today that’s still like that, and most people don’t even realize it, because it can be such an isolated area.”
The album moves on with a broad range of styles, a successive showcase of Biddines’ rapping skills and versatility. Several tracks reflect and heavily feature his R&B background—not just via voice but also in lyrical content laced with a certain sensitivity. Biddines pays respect to ‘the hustle coming from a woman’ in “Stripper Documentary,” appreciates and defends an archetype of Black womanhood on “Claire Huxtable,” and gets real personal with “I Am,” a song that honors his mother and sisters for their influence in his life. As a rapper who admits to loving some ‘ignorant music,’ these mature themes reveal a refreshing depth and complexity to Biddines and his music.
Every artist comes from somewhere; every artist is influenced by those who came before. But with Planetcoffeebean 2, Eric Biddines proves he is among the few who can weave together the threads of their predecessors into art that is exactly its influences and also completely its own creation. Music like this, rooted in history and geared toward the evolution of its genre, grabs our attention in a meaningful way. It feels right on time.