Teacher. Rapper. Hero. Just one of those titles alone would be almost too much a burden for the average man to behold, thankfully, the world has Mega Ran to answer the call. More on that later…
It’s been a busy year for the Philadelphia-native, turned Phoenix transplant. As one of the more stalwart standouts of the oft-refuted as “dead” genre of Hip-Hop called Nerdcore, Raheem Jarbo has made an impressive surge in the underground market over the last decade or so. From his 2006 debut, “The Call,” up until his newest release “Extra Credit,” this passionate MC is always on the grind if you hear it from him. Persistence in the name of passion of is one of the more common themes of his impressive library – the same level of dedication even led to several appearances on WWE television in 2017!
“Extra Credit” starts off with “Journey,” a familiar tale of rising from being a relative genre unknown to being “in demand” as he so puts it. The track is produced by frequent collaborator and long-time friend K-Murdock. Fans of chiptune-infused Hip-Hop (Ran himself refers to it as “chip-hop”) are in for what they’ve come to expect, but Mega Ran soon switches up styles, and will frequently throughout the album’s duration. Ever the storyteller, songs like the ultra-catchy “Form School of Feng Shui” recall the potential horrors of poor co-habitation, while the House Electronic-inspired “Pursuant Hearts” details the beginning, middle, and end of an ill-fated relationship.
Known just as well for his collaborations as his solo work, Mega Ran is usually backed by a barrage of talented artists, both Underground and Mainstream. Fellow genre mainstay, and former tour mate, Sammus guest stars on “Old Enough,” a song questioning the concept of wisdom coming with age when there are still plenty of mistakes to be made regardless of experience. Platinum-selling (and platinum coifed) artist Sisqo also appears in “Church, Part 2,” a track that uses the castle theme from Super Mario World to create possibly the best song on the album, remixed from an earlier project.
Strangely enough, if Extra Credit falls short anywhere, it’s in some of the other remixes presented. Reworked from 2015’s “RNDM,” possibly Ran’s best album to date, songs like “Rushmore,” and “Miss Communication” just don’t seem to mesh well when compared with the rest of the album, and probably should have been a part of separate project entirely. “Your Favorite Song,” from 2015 made a great case for being just that, but the Willie Green remix on “Extra Credit” left me wholly unconvinced. These missteps are minor, and don’t at all detract from enjoying album as a whole. Don’t get me wrong, “Extra Credit” is still one of Mega Ran’s best albums over his ever-expanding catalog and possibly one of the better Hip-hop records of 2017!
Extra Credit is a perfect sampling, even introduction if you’re new, to the artist’s versatility; proving that it’s not all about getting the highest gaming scores that matters. For as much as Mega Ran is revered for his light-hearted tales of Nostalgia, “Life is hard, like Dark Souls.” This is a sentiment illustrated in songs like “Mockingbird,” a personal reflection on not only the classic Harper Lee novel, but to the Author herself. Before becoming a full-time Musician, Raheem Jarbo taught grade school, so every now and again, the desire to educate still shines in his art.
Later this Fall, and continuing until the end of the year, Mega Ran will be touring throughout the country, making stops along the way in cities such as Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York. Travelling with others notable acts such as MC Frontalot and MC Lars, genre fans should be up for a treat. For more on Mega Ran, including where to buy Extra Credit, tour dates, discography, and more, check out megaranmusic.com.
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Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this review erroneously noted that MegaRan lives in Nevada and that K-Murdock produced “Black Materia”. Both items have been corrected.