True enough, Richmond, California emcee Locksmith (Davood Asgari, formerly of Frontline duo) has come through on his promise to release his third studio album Olive Branch, and in timely fashion at that. Olive Branch was promoted briefly on Lock’s masterful 2016 mixtape The Lock Sessions but what’s better is that the LP is every bit as outstanding as fans had hoped it would be. Everywhere here the fierce, respected lyricist has an extraordinary sense of manhood and social responsibility and strong-willed moral character. His messages alone blow out at least three quarters of the mainstream rap field easily and when you add his top notch rhyme flow to the equation, he automatically moves to the upper echelon of hip-hop music. Also, new and returning guest artists and variably textured beats are in store for listeners old and new in what should prove to be Locksmith’s greatest album yet.
The whole idea of the project is to impart critical words of wisdom. There are few breaks from it, but it’s also impossible to tire from it. Spoken word advice atop leads to thoughts on arriving plus toughness in the Kato-produced “Nobody,” which opens for some softer focused lessons-to-carry via “No Way” before Lock’s beast-slaying “Agenda” wakes us up like a bucket of ice cold water to a fast asleep face. Make note of the Tribe “Kick It” quote there and especially the line “’til we see ourselves as one we can never progress.” Next we have “The Margin,” Lock’s special attention to hurting people drowning in a decadent society and a call to think about how we are all connected in this world. Similarly yet some four tracks down, in “Helpless,” Locksmith again touches on our disconnectedness as people. “Home,” with returning Lock music-mate Rebecca Nobel, in her second of three appearances, tells us to be ourselves in the face of resistance, focuses on individual strengths over weaknesses and helps to shed our fears of being perceived poorly by others.
Still, great feelings of love pervade the entire LP and in a few tracks most particularly. In “The One” Locksmith is concerned about struggling to make it work in a relationship enough to voice it (with fine eloquence), and later reconnects with his love in a spell of passion through “Neck Pillow,” which flips the melody and chorus of the Aaliyah tribute song “Miss You” (2002). Much as how “Go There” from Lock Sessions uplifted his and all mothers in general, this set’s “One More Time” immortalizes Lock’s passed mom with so much heart but mournfully this round, dropping the upbeat clip of “Go There” for a slower more soulful style.
The title tracks ends the project here, save for the live version of “Home,” which is just as welcomed and really drives home (pun intended) its many valuable points even further. “Olive Branch” the song sees Lock comment with humble conviction on holding onto his integrity and dignity, and that’s basically what the whole of the album does in one way or another. This is not the same Locksmith of two or three years ago. This is a better Locksmith. The work he’s put in since has delivered him great credibility and proven his confidence in spreading sense, intelligence and reason through his bars. For all those “tough” guys and girls listening out there, know this – the Olive Branch LP is mellifluously inspirational at times but it is incredibly powerful and heavy in subject matter, enough to instantly knock down the cold hardened persona of anyone willing to look at it.
5 out of 5 stars