If you think Philadelphia’s hip-hop talent pool has been exhausted, think again. With the release of his debut album Scribes Of Life, 24-year-old Rafiek George is posed to fulfill the duty of his name. Everyone meet Journalist. “I’m a Journalist of the street,” says Crazyworld/Motown’s newest rapper.
With a lyrical expression similar to veterans such as Cool G Rap, Journalist is the rare type of MC who delivers boldly scripted urban reality that screams “Extra! Extra,” beckoning listeners to want to hear all about it. “I constantly work to expand my vocabulary, so conceptually people sometimes compare me to rappers like Nas. I mean cats that create songs that you may not be able to relate to first-hand, but are so lyrically stimulating you can’t help but feel it.” However, unlike many of his cohorts Journalists’ exclusives are edited to reflect life on a universal level, not just the avid ghetto-club card carrier. “I don’t like to blend in with trends, so I listen to a little bit of everything right down to Alternative music. And that’s helped me as an artist to broaden the things I rap about.”
His unique ability to filter a current, streetwise sound with rare intellectual depth and sensitivity is one major factor that sets Journalists apart from the assembly line of bling-blingin’ thug impersonators that invade the rap game these days. “If you’re not a rap fan then you’ll love the melodies I’m giving. If you’re a hip-hop fan then you’ll love the lyrics.” For instance, the Patti LaBelle inspired, “On My Own,” evokes the sentimental anguish felt from reflecting upon deceased loved ones. Journalist wrote the remake hoping that Patti herself could lend her legendary vocals, but due to schedule conflicts things never panned out. However, the final product did earn praise from the Philly native. “Patti LaBelle is a friend of mine and the last time I talked with her I was so flattered because she said it brought tears to her eyes. My mom brought me up on singers like Patti, so that meant a lot to me,” remembers Journalist.
The truth is Journalist’s mother influenced more than just his musical background. By example, she showed him the value of hard work and persistence. “It was my mother who always made a way for me and my four brothers. I can’t say we were dirt poor but things definitely weren’t always easy.” It was in middle school that Journalist recalls deciding he would either be part of the NBA or a rap star. By the time he graduated high school in 1995, his hoop-dreams had faded and his push to get a recording deal was in full swing. While working for Philadelphia’s Children’s Hospital as a youth counselor and public speaker, Journalist became a talent show favorite. “I remember the first time I got paid to perform, it was in ’97. It was at this talent search at the Stardust Ballroom in Jersey. I got $250. If they only knew I would have done it for free,” he chuckles.
Journalist’s career really started to move foreword in 1999 when his manager, the Jr. to the retired NBA star Julius Erving arranged an audition before Universal Record’s, then A&R Vice President, Charles Suit. So impressed by his talent, Journalist joined the Universal roster along with the likes of Juvenile and Nelly, then progress stalled. “The timing just wasn’t right for me there, so they took my project to (CEO/President) Kedar Massenburg at Motown and he agreed to take on the project and signed me in April.”
The album, aptly entitled Scribes Of Life, proves as versatile as it is charismatic while Journalist tackles all facets of life and embraces several flow styles. “I’m giving you me, my bad side and good side. Everybody has those. I’ve never heard of anyone who didn’t,” he insists. Even more, his lofty vocabulary downsizes the curses that usually bombard most street-accredited albums, which is something Journalist prides himself on.
Journalist encourages kids to use their minds beneath the twangy, 70’s funk-era groove of “Got The Game Confused” where he tells the story of a hardheaded teenager who ignores several of his friends warnings and winds up getting set up by federal drug agents. “I feel good about this song because me myself- I always liked a rapper who had something to say. I tell stories. That’s what journalists do.”
Journalist also raises the mood considerably with playful tracks like “She Wants Me”, where he uses a Latin-infused backdrop to narrate an episode with a hottie that just won’t let go of her ex. “I remember attending community college in South Philly and finding myself showing up just so I could see the females. That’s how much I love women so they’re the topic of a few of my rhymes.”
Still, he can talk trash with the best of them. Rakim influences are definitely evident on “When It Comes To The Sh*t,” as Journalist outwits competitors like an old school pro. “When I was a kid my brothers collected all the Hip-Hop tapes so I picked from everyone from Biz Markie to Whodini,” says Journalist.
Aside from being a legitimate rap powerhouse himself, his ability to hold his own along side other formidable artists such as MOP, makes “Extended Family” an unbridled celebratory lyrical feast, destined to be remembered as one of the album’s highlights.
Ultimately, with Scribes Of Life Rafiek George has brought to the table a rare and sincere look into one man’s perspective on life, positioning himself at the threshold of realizing his childhood dream. Having come such a long way, he is well prepared. Journalist has paid his dues and knows the who, what, where, when and why of his game. So there is no doubt that soon there will be subscribers from everywhere dying to get the latest scoop on the rap artist known as Journalist.