‘The Seventh Seal’ by The Teeta and Willo: ALBUM REVIEW
As the world sinks into a perpetual state of fear, ‘The Seventh Seal’ looks inward for solace.
Two paragons of Texas talent in the state’s local hip-hop scene come together for a new project, unveiling a clandestine part of their personality that was never on display in their past works.
The Seventh Seal is a 7-track collaboration project between cloud rap figure The Teeta, lyrical virtuoso Willo, and executive producer BIK CZ.
A look into their back catalog
The Seventh Seal sees the two MCs diving into the conscious realm of rap. For Willo, who is following up on his recent EP, Slide (2020), this project would not be seen as an atypical venture for the Dallas-based rapper by his fans, who would be expecting great flows and clever wordplay from him.
The production work on this album blends in perfectly with Willo’s trademark flow and his penchant for jazzy beats reminiscent of ’90s Southern hip-hop, which was on full display on his 2017 studio album, Never Die. Also worth noting are some of the thematic similarities between The Seventh Seal and his past works, such as Never Die and his the most recent EP, Slide (2020), allowing for his narrative to grow at his own pace, thus making The Seventh Seal both a welcoming treat for Willo’s fans and a good introduction to newcomers.
However, those who haven’t followed The Teeta before he blew up in the scene as one of Texas’ many prominent cloud rap artists [See: American Pop (2018), Killstreak I & II (2017)] may find The Seventh Seal a bit unusual, as it is a more serious project that tends to be more direct with its approach in dealing with serious topics.
But that is not a detriment, whatsoever. The Teeta knows how to deliver such serious messages in an evocative way that is not alienating to the ears of those who have grown accustomed to his rougher, trap-oriented material — so much so that he actually raps better in that style.
In an exclusive interview I conducted with him, The Teeta revealed that his noticeable stylistic shift from trap to a more soul/funk-heavy sound on The Seventh Seal was intentional and a return-to-form for the artist.
“It’s inspired by old Dungeon Family (OutKast, Goodie Mob),” The Teeta wrote of the inspiration for The Seventh Seal’s production style. “It’s kind of a return to my roots. I started my rap career off along those lines, but switched up my tone and now I’m just kind of a hybrid.”
In the end, things panned out well for him, as the record showcases The Teeta in his most colorful yet.
In hip-hop, personality is everything. Well, at least a huge part of it is.
The personality that was put on display by both The Teeta and Willo is undeniable, despite the differences when it comes to their respective niche, as far as their back catalogs are concerned.
Without going into too much detail, both MCs’ lines complement each other in almost every situation they find themselves in, with the two taking turns at being the vulnerable one and being ‘the voice of reason’.
The opening track The Answer is already a good example of the above, introducing both MCs’ distinct personalities on the mic placed adjacent to each other, with Willo opening the album up with a laid-back flow for the verses and the hook, all of which are paired well together by an excellent arrangement of horn samples and synth-bass.
If what The Teeta says about their inspiration for The Seventh Seal’s sound is true — that they took a great deal of inspiration from OutKast — then they most certainly did a splendid job at it, not only capturing the vibe of an Aquemini (1998) or the technical know-how of an Andre 3000, but most importantly, the chemistry between the duo that their elements in harmony despite their varying styles.
Deeper than it seems
Like many other rap albums of its kind, The Seventh Seal doesn’t boast that much length. But for what it lacks in length, it makes up for in depth, as there are more layers of narrative and musical elements weaved into the tracks than what we’ve seen from both artists’ past material.
As its title suggests, The Seventh Seal is a direct reference to the symbolic readings found in the Book of Revelations that signals the Second Coming of Christ as well as an ensuing apocalypse.
But while The Seventh Seal is aware of the realities that greatly affect people in and out of the community in which they were from, The Teeta and Willo did not show any hint of cynicism towards the world at large.
Rather, The Seventh Seal is a collection of soliloquies and self-reflection of two flawed individuals with a desire for inner cleansing. The conflict in doing so, however, is not described explicitly in any of the tracks and is left for the listener to pick up.
“The apocalypse stuff was kinda just based off the fact that we live in some crazy times,” The Teeta wrote. “[The Seventh Seal] is more about the path of life and an inner glimpse into us as individuals.”
This gives room for the more attentive listeners to connect to the record on a more personal level, though, at times, this comes at the expense of the groove, as there are fewer bangers in this album compared to Willo’s Never Die and The Teeta’s American Pop.
The Delicate, for instance, while it has fewer things going on in its instrumentals, it is made up for by compelling verses about their dreams and responsibilities colliding with each other and how they have left their hedonistic desires for inner peace.
The biggest highlight on the tracklist, however, is The Meaning. While it only lasts 20 seconds short of 2 minutes, it packed the most punch out of the entire bunch. Tackling one of the biggest questions of the universe, ‘What is the meaning of life?’, we get a glimpse of the artists’ common life outside the studio: paying bills, making a living for one’s self and their family, and such.
It is the vicious cycle of the normal life that bounds people in their place, leading them to question their bigger purpose in life, if they were born to have one, to what end will their daily routines will lead them, why people were born to face the bigger problems of the world without having much choice to deal with them — what life truly means.
The contemplation of the duo toward ‘the meaning’ of life in The Meaning documents not the statistics by which people’s state of living is determined — how leaders tend to see its people from a bird’s eye view — but the conditions faced by people that lead them into questioning their purpose.
The Seventh Seal is not a To Pimp A Butterfly nor an Illmatic by a long shot. I don’t believe it was intended to rival the greats, nor do I think it is a perfect record, for how abrupt the tape was in its duration.
But much like these albums and other amazing conscious rap records throughout history, it has a deep narrative layered within a concept and scattered in bits. It is contemplative and human. It was crafted by talented artists from the streets with the intention of sending a message.
And the message was clear: for us to find inner peace in the midst of a tumultuous pandemic while continuing to fight the good fight.