Centri (pronounced sentry) is an ex-military veteran who gets the best endorsement possible from an unnamed UK radio deejay only two tracks into the “Headless Nobody” album, introducing the track “Powder Keg” before the pianos and drums kick in:
“If people hear the song and quit rappin’, I will fully understand. This is not a song about the money, the cars, the Grammy Awards, the thirty-two million YouTube hits – and the luxurious side of being a rapper. This is real – dealing with real people in real situations, and most importantly real talent as well.”
Centri proceeds to spit an untempo flow over a Dig Dug beat about how “no matter how talented people say that you are, they don’t owe you one percent/and when you’re living with your moms, you’re feeling kind of odd/cause your clothes are outdated, got a dead end job.” The deejay wasn’t kidding – this is the reality of being an independent hip-hop artist without the reputation of Jay Z, the tits of Nicki Minaj, or the devoted fanbase of Tyler, the Creator. “Too many emcees and not enough fans/too much talent, little money in my hands.” This should serve as fair warning for anybody who has dreams of making it big as an rapper.
The good news is that Centri isn’t letting the bleak prospects of success stop him from trying anyway – and he’s trying some things that his peers aren’t. The NEOREV produced “A&R” sounds like a super crunchy dubstep track, but he’s purposefully flowing even slower and more deliberately over the energetic backdrop. The contrast is appealing. “We Write Killas” with Dokta Strange and Earthadox is equally odd – it would be at home in a rail-shooter with zombies leaping out into your face. Skyzoo cameos on “RhymeGlue” – a Dynamics Plus production that sounds like somebody whacking the side of a wooden instrument and letting it echo to make the beat, accented by occasional Eastern melodies that flit away as quickly as they float on. “We don’t need no hook” is a contradiction since it comes on the chorus but you’ll forgive the hubris.
Not every experiment is an unqualified success. The slow and plodding “That’s Why I Rap Like This” was a poor showcase for guest star Blaq Poet let alone Centri himself. “r2s” is okay musically but Centri gets a little TOO hype, and it sounds like he started sucking helium before he stepped in the booth to record. The missteps are the exceptions though – the soulful Willie Green laced “Let Me Live” featuring Shae Doll is part for the course.
Centri is a new commodity to me but he’s one that shows he’s taken his time serving our country and transitioned to a post-combat musical career successfully. Even though he admits it’s not paying that well given “my last ten shows (were) free and all they gave me was props” I don’t think he should get down about his prospects. Given time and more quality music with producers like Akir, Dig Dug and Plus he may just find he’s not so far behind the eight ball after all.