Raf Almighty Once Upon a Time in Baltimore

Once Upon a Time in Baltimore‘ is the newest album from Raf Almighty x BigBob who have been just dropping heat rock after heat rock all year long. Dope tracks, dope vids, dope albums and Once Upon a Time in Baltimore continues that level of excellence. On the back of the brilliant ‘537 Dolphin Street‘, the latest release once again extends those street tales of CHARM CITY, and sees Raf Almighty become larger than life over some searing, cinematic and atmospheric production from BigBob.

The BIG ALMIGHTY pairing is as good as any, and the chemistry is extremely well established. From start to finish, Raf and Bob are in sync and it makes for a cohesive and captivating listen. What BigBob does on the boards, commanding your attention, nothing too overstated but subtly brilliant, Raf does on the mic – painting vivid pictures with his wordplay and delivering with unique authenticity.

Welcome to Baltimore‘ is a gritty, ominous opening that details the often grim, dark reality of Old Baltimore over dusty production, before ‘Bulls Eye‘ comes in and just crushes it with a seriously hardbody posse cut featuring Raf, Skanks the Rap Martyr and Ruste Juxx, over a somewhat haunting track complete with a water torture undertone. ‘Old Bay Seasoning‘ is a classic-sounding, boom bap number that plays the background to Raf’s battle-rap kinda vibe and he spits rugged bars with purpose before the mood dissipates into a slower, more dramatic & melodic track ‘Hospital Gown‘ utilising ventilator soundbytes, dope scratches and sick samples.

The bells on ‘All Hail‘ set off this head-nodder really well for one of many highlights on the album, followed by ‘Crow Bars’ which also gets that neck snapping and stankfacing at the cuts on this number. ‘Accomplishments‘ is a somewhat uplifting joint that details the come up with a poignant hook and pairs Raf Almighty with Guy Grams for another heater. Speaking of heat, ‘Hot Winterz‘ is scorching in name and in delivery, Raf is vicious on this joint over a track that sounds like a Martin Scorsese movie score.

Up next, ‘Eastern Ave, Pt. 1‘ / ‘Climbing Ropes‘ / ‘Eastern Ave, Pt. 2‘ is a trilogy of sorts talking all about the opposite sex and the control and power that they posses in the ability to make and control life. You won’t find this level of detail on just any hip hop album – it gives ‘in the hood’ a whole new meaning! But real talk, the analogy and concept is legit.

Always Succeed‘ is hard and delivers a poignant, positive message over one of the best boom bap drum tracks on the album, then ‘Act 1st Chapter‘ takes a more chilled vibe and approach to talk hip hop, culture and the old / real. Love the soundbytes on this track too. GStats (who collab’d with Raf on The Ruler Gods) joins the grimey, street narrative of ‘Black Creek‘ with his raspy, gruff flow, then the album concludes with ‘Charm City Outro‘ – a funky, jazz infused ‘thank you’ to round out what has been an entertaining listen and sonic trip through Baltimore.

Bangers: Black Creek, Bulls Eye, All Hail, Hot Winterz

Score: 9 / 10. The concept is fantastic and when you add it to the collection of dope material Raf has put out in 2021 (The Ruler Gods, Kujo, but more importantly 537 Dolphin Street) it stands out as yet another jewel in the crown and a continuation of the concept. What you can always rely on from Raf is dope bars. He has a sharp pen and clever wordplay, but his flow and delivery also adds emphasis to those nouns and verbs. BigBob is fantastic yet again, constantly nailing that real dusty boom bap style of sound, but making it interesting and audibly appealing spin after spin after spin.

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About The Author

By Brutus Maximus

Founder of Raw Side Hip Hop. Been rocking with the hip hop culture for over 30 years. Love the creativity, authenticity of the art and the culture as a whole. Shout out to the real ones making and supporting true hip hip and the artists who make it!