If MC/rapper Heidi Barton Stink has you take one thing away about her from her EP The Familiar Pattern, it’s that she’s a good-to-great rapper. The most glowing attribute about her, it’s only after her skills are recognized that it’s necessary to note that she self-identifies as a transgendered female. While it’s as important and shown in her work as marijuana is to Devin the Dude and 9/11 conspiracies are to Immortal Technique, the understanding and attention shown to the craft of MCing makes her a “rapper who is transgendered” rather than “a transgendered person who raps.” It’s not a “Homo-Hop” record, it’s a rap record, and a good one at that.
Formerly one-half of Twin Cities rap duo Many Missions, Stink foregoes the schizophrenic subject matter of 2008’s The Cooperative Collection in favor of a much more focus, introspective endeavor. The EP opens with “Love Who” where, over a welcome Nico sample, the minimalist production compliments Stink’s honest reflection of living as a transgender in a famously “Liberal” city. The song works because of Stink’s honest and bare essentialist presentation. She doesn’t pose for her plight or cue an audience reaction sign, she lets the events speak for themselves, showing what she’s gone through without telling you how to feel about it. Her frustration continues with vices (“Pick Your Poison”) and the dehumanizing neglect of urban suffering (“Direct Action”). While the majority of her “conscious rap” contemporaries would just identify that topics like alcoholism and discrimination exist and then take a “bold” stance by referring to them as “not good,” Stink opts instead to point out a problem, explain why it’s a problem and then either offer steps toward fixing it or emphasizing the importance of banding together to find that solution. She does this while refreshingly using “multis” that aren’t forced in the slightest and big words in her lyrics correctly so that if read out-of-context it would still, you know, make sense.
The greatest strength of the EP is the vocal performance. Stink’s always had an enjoyable distinctive voice, but now her flow is perfected to accentuate the positives even further. This is most apparent on the EP’s centerpiece “Getting Up.” Over a sturdy thumping production, Stink dissects the guilt, death and codependence of “the elephant in the room that’s collapsing on stilts,” one’s own responsibility. The beat drives a sense of urgency that maintains the message’s importance, but genuinely knocks enough to keep the song fun without coming off preachy. It’s the type of production that Stink should be performing over. With the EP covering such grave subject matter, it’s the shot of fun the party needs.
By comparison, songs like “Photographic Blurs” and “Light of the Mind” seem a little too experimental for their own good. While there is something to be said for rappers to be trying new things and putting out a free release with all original production, neither beat holds up under the weight of Stink’s voice and with how on-point the vocal inflections and breath control are, it just doesn’t do her justice. Fortunately the EP concludes on a promising highnote, the lighter “Never Got it Right” that paints Stink as a person who really doesn’t know their future or their present for that matter, but has knowledge of self enough to know he’s going to be alright. There’s also a hidden track, an alternate mix of “Photographic Blurs” with a far more appropriate beat.
The Familiar Pattern is worth your time, not because it features a rapper trying to be different, but because it features a rapper who is. The genre thrives on originality, and the perspective Stink is coming from is worthwhile because of, more than anything, her skills behind a microphone. While there are a few moments that don’t work, the better parts more than make up for them and “Getting Up” warrants the EP’s download alone. It’ll be interesting to hear what the next project will sound like, but if this is any indication, Stink is sure to finally get it right.
We give The Familiar Pattern EP a Three out of Five
Download the EP HERE!
Until next time Let’s Agree to Agree!