Have you heard of Richard Desire? No?  Don’t think about it too hard. It’s unlikely that you’d forget a name so unique (pronounced Des-er-RAY) and once you’ve heard his music, he’s difficult to shake. This independent hip hop artist from Baltimore has begun to create a name for himself in the region with his creamy voice, infectious rhythms, and clever lyrics. His album Blind Ambition stands out among underground artists in the genre and displays its colors without apology.

One of the most notable aspects of this album is Desire’s deep, velvety vocals. Their richness can be truly appreciated in the album’s slower tracks, such as “Dear Summer,” where his voice massages listeners’ ears like water across smooth stones. Of course, when the heat is turned up and the beat quickened, Desire has no problem keeping up. His tongue adeptly navigates his artful lyrics, moving between poetry reading and rap spitting with admirable ease.

This kind of versatility is plentiful in Blind Ambition. Desire has a lot to offer to a wide range of listeners, assuming they can surrender to some genre bending. A number of influences can been found tucked into each track including, but not limited to, jazz, soul, classic hip hop, and even world music. It is music that has–at least in part–been created for musicians as a singular celebration of the medium itself.

One of the beauties of Blind Ambition is its self-awareness, and Desire doggedly assures that the listeners know it. It is a hip hop album that is largely about the direction of the genre it works within, born from this frequently asked question: “Has hip hop lost its essence?”

Desire is not subtle in his critique of modern hip hop. He takes a notable step away from radio rap by peppering his lyrics with “nerdy” references, alluding to everything from Greek mythology to Star Wars. They are embedded into his songs like Easter eggs, there to please and enrich the understanding of those who recognize them, without being vital to the song’s ultimate meaning. His separation from the mainstream style of rap seems an object of celebration, as is suggested in the track “IDGAF.”

Of course, there are some songs that come out of the modern hip hop tradition, but they are not without their twists. “Bottle Service”–a party song if there ever was one–begins by reveling in the clubbing lifestyle, but then goes on to critique its own decadence and material focus. Desire has even created his own version of Tycho’s “Rack City” that incorporates new musical elements and turns the original lyrical concept on its head. When Desire praises himself in his songs, he is presenting himself to the world not as the face of a new, experimental hip hop movement, but as a proud participant in it.

You should listen to Blind Ambition because is not just an album. It is a manifesto–a shout from the musical undertow–declaring that hip hop is not only alive and well, but moving into the future at breakneck pace.

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