The earnest spoken-word opener "Intro: The Poet," in which rapper Shihan speaks of writing verses on his bathroom floor at four in the morning set to a near-easy listening acid jazz backing, hints that this album is going to be the hip-hop equivalent to those whining little emo kids singing about what misunderstood geniuses they are. After one brief minute of that, however, the album immediately kicks into something far more proactive and substantial. Shihan is clearly a very serious and high-minded writer/performer, but The Poet balances the calls to action of "Activism" and "Auction Network" with an assertive, personality filled vocal presence and a knack for cool, jazzy beats that nonetheless have a strong rhythmic element. The music is uniformly mellow and appealing, but it's secondary to the lyrics throughout; indeed, the most exciting moment on the album comes in the last verse of "Poemcee," when the beat drops out entirely and Shihan delivers a loud and clear message of self-reliance to the sound of nothing but handclaps. The Poet is a small-scale, humanist album, but it's not so po-faced that it's no fun to listen to.
AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason
feat: Ursula Rucker