Album review: RA the MC, "Victory Lap"
It's hard out there for a femcee, especially one without a shtick.
District-based rapper RA the MC doesn't have the outsize, mafiosa-in-leopard-print persona of a Lil' Kim or the monster-in-a-pink-wig rep of reigning queen Nicki Minaj. On her latest and greatest offering, "Victory Lap," RA (born Rashea Faulkner) seems alarmingly normal. She's amiable, life-size.
Even her beats are human scale. There's nothing massive but little that's dull, even though "Victory Lap" is a mix tape, which means that, by its very nature, it's scattered, rambling and liberally padded. Its 16 tracks pinball between answering-machine messages (New Orleans Saint Usama Young says hi!), alternate mixes and a probably unnecessary radio freestyle.
But get past the filler and there's the gentle, rapped-sung, should-be hit "Breaking Point" and a sad, sweet redo of Katy Perry's "Ur So Gay" that converts Perry's indictment of a metrosexual beau into a paean to domesticity.
On the rare tracks she tackles on her own, RA is flexible and smart, making up in dexterity what she lacks in charisma. Unlike Minaj, she doesn't want to devour the world; she just wants to find a guy who will take her to brunch on Sunday. But "Victory Lap" bulges with such a showy collection of DMV all-stars - including Gordo Brega, Kingpen Slim and X.O. (who shows up on the ridiculously good exercise in triumphalism "4 the Belt") - that RA's role is occasionally little more than decorative.
The exception: The Nas takeoff "Hate Me Now," the millionth rap track to use boxing imagery as a metaphor for hip-hop gamesmanship. "I am the future/Fighting these snakes like Medusa," RA declares. "You underestimate/You'll be the worst off." Only a fool would disbelieve her.
Recommended tracks: "4 the Belt," "Breaking Point," "Hate Me Now"