Review: Listaa – Sense of Direction

Sunderland spitter, Listaa, is bar-for-bar one of the best freestyle MC’s I’ve had the pleasure of listening to. A constant stand-out when it comes to live cyphers and radio sessions with his off-the-top prowess, however he’s proven in the past with his ‘Illusive Living’ mixtape and various feature verses that he’s much more than just a fantastic freestyler. As a member of New North East, one of the most exciting collectives in the North East; Listaa has had a high standard set before him with each artist within the collective showing phenomenal progress in their most recent projects. With ‘Sense of Direction‘, Listaa looks set strengthen NNE’s stronghold over Sunderland’s rap circuit.

The tape opens up with ‘Intro… SR5‘, an insight into the humorous, shock-rap lyricism that in my experience, best reflects Listaa’s personality. With a great use of flows, rhyme schemes and anaphora, each bar is as captivating as the last one. The one issue I have with the track personally is the amount of times I’ve heard the bars before, as consequence of having seen Listaa perform so many times and thus, it’d have been nice to have purely fresh material on the EP. On the other hand, I understand that there will be many that may have only seen Listaa at a gig once or twice and some hearing the EP would have never heard of the bar-smith before. With that in mind, it’s a great start to ‘Sense of Direction’, however, one which sets up false expectations, and in hindsight feels out of place.

Following the intro track, the rest of the EP takes a turn down the path of emotional resonance. My personal favourite form of music – but it’s also become tough to impress me because I listen to so much ‘Mood Muzik.’ ‘Subtractions‘ is a cool track, albeit nothing spectacular, let down by a lack of cohesion between the delivery and the lyrics.

wTw‘ (which stands for With The Wind) has been undoubtedly the most hyped track according to social media, and the one I’ve played most on radio as a result. I suspect that is because it is neither ostentatiously emotional, nor over-the-top humour. Instead it offers a middle-ground, there are hints of emotional resonance, but it’s more anger than it is sadness as Listaa tackles various social issues. Once again, however, I feel the track is let down somewhat by the delivery. Whilst the delivery exuded on the track is okay, to really deserve the acclaim it’s received it’d have been nice to hear a change-up in the cadence to properly portray the message with more impact.

The penultimate and closing songs of ‘Sense of Direction’, offer personal highlights. ‘These Dayz‘ highlights the improvement of the records when the delivery is distinctly in partnership with the lyricism. The second verse in particular impresses, blending optimism with introspection in exactly the right dosage. The best track of the EP comes at the end of the tracklist with ‘Fade‘. A lot deeper immediately than the proceeding tracks, opening with an incredible extended metaphor before taking aim at the education system.

Its at this point I find myself faced with an inner-conflict. On one hand, I’m annoyed that I waited so long for a new project, only for it to feel so short once it arrives. On the other, ‘Sense of Direction’ is perfectly packaged in a way that leaves me thirsting for more. So long as Listaa doesn’t take too long to capitalise on the alley-oop offered by ‘Sense of Direction’ in following up with a full-length project.

In whatever comes next, whenever it comes, I hope to see the same amount of progression from ‘Illusive Living’ to ‘Sense of Direction’, perhaps with a more balanced display of versatility, offering more of what was sampled in the opener, but balanced correctly with tracks like ‘Fade’. ‘Sense of Direction’ is a solid, albeit not perfect project. It does however, do exactly what is required of an EP; keep me wanting more.

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