When L. Lamar Wilson interviewed Rapsody for Oxford American in 2018, the writer and filmmaker asked the rapper -- coming off two Grammy nominations, her profile still on the rise -- if she felt part of the same cultural lineage as Nina Simone and Roberta Flack. The exchange fired Rap's imagination to conceptualize the follow-up to the celebrated Laila's Wisdom. Each one of the LP's tracks is named after a black woman, with the reach extended to consider not just artists but also boundary-shattering activists and businesswomen, athletes and models, and even a character from the film Set It Off (portrayed by Queen Latifah, who's actually on the track named after the Egyptian pharaoh Hatshepsut). For the album's title, Rapsody refers to the Book of Genesis, thereby uniting and honoring black womanhood, herself included. The concept doesn't overshadow the content. The funky-wobbling Khrysis production "Whoopi," for instance, could just as naturally be titled "Sister Act Up," and like all the other cuts, its references to the title figure are placed beside nods to many other inspirations (in this case, the likes of Angela Bassett, Left Eye, and Beyoncé) amid irreproachable self-praise ("Playin' big Goliath when my team got the rock/Been groomed for the throne, I ain't have to tie a knot"). There are layers within layers, like when Rapsody and producer 9th Wonder pay tribute to GZA's 1995 classic "Liquid Swords" -- on "Ibtihaj," named after the Muslim American Olympic fencer -- and get forceful GZA and ghostly D'Angelo, who broke that year, on the track together. There's also the gem named after the revolutionary Afeni Shakur, which samples her son 2Pac, as Rapsody and poet Reyna Biddy comfort and guide black men. Predominant beat suppliers 9th and Eric G, joined frequently again by Terrace Martin on keyboards, give the album a sound that is a little more urgent and boisterous than Laila's Wisdom, complementing Rap's spirit of celebration and gratitude. While nothing here is quite as creative as Laila standout "Jesus Coming," the MC's lyrical marksmanship, top-tier mike command, and service to her people and culture are indisputable.
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman