Tower City was the Cleveland Equivalent of Albee Square Mall.
And a City Blue bag was the ultimate status symbol for young kids in the early 00’s.
So when R the Czar raps about Uncle Stevie taking him to City Blue to trade in his raggedy sneakers for a new pair of J’s, we all recognize that as a come up. But something about having “elephant prints on my Jordan 3’s” didn’t feel natural to young Armand Davis. This song is about that realization, that even as a youngster yearning for those hot kicks so he could be the envy of his neighborhood, there was a higher calling in his life. There was a true purpose for his being here, and he was losing it to the commercialism that defines hip hop culture and the pursuit of material wealth and happiness in The Trap.
R the Czar’s journey has been different. He is a gospel rapper without the label. He speaks his truth, which just so happens to be a truth that includes a savior called Christ. He isn’t pushy- he wants people to come to his message organically, but it’s there in every bar of the song. Even when he could pass judgement on those who overlooked him in the past he declines, saying “So, here we are, four year later, four kids greater. I could play you but I won’t, ’cause you remind me where I come from.” From seeing the materialism of Christmas unfold in his daughter’s eyes to committing the ultimate sneaker sin, getting his new AF1’s dirty on the second day- the grind of commercialism is taking his toll- but it hasn’t taken his soul. It’s an interesting look at that balance between the memories of youth and what material tokens meant versus what they mean to a grown man. And the soundtrack is what pulls it together.
This isn’t the first time R worked with producer Cool-T, and it won’t be the last. The two have terrific chemistry and this neo-soul influenced track is the perfect backdrop for the theme of the song. This is the kind of soundtrack that would’ve underscored Lauren or Common going after the mainstream, so in a world of trap music and face tats, it only makes sense that this is the subtle battle cry for a righteous war against greed. Soft pianos tag in and out over a Moog synth, with a disarming minor key change that disrupts the calm with a type of sonic chaos that captures the tenor of the lyrics without changing to a negative tone.
It’s our pleasure to recognize R The Czar with this week’s Franchise Radio Show “Franchise Tag” as our Cleveland song of the week!