“Her parents gave her the best of things, but they never gave her the best of them.” Taken from his 2013 TEDx presentation, this potent line speaks to Rashad Rayford’s flare for provocative commentary, a quality which has earned him his place as one of the key voices among Nashville’s spoken word community (in addition to a handful of NIMA honors). A poet mentor with Southern Word for the past six years, Rayford has held a prominent role in serving the organization’s mission to provide “creative solutions for youth to build literacy and presentation skills, reconnect to their education and to their lives, and act as leaders in the improvement of their communities.” “He’s a great role model,” says Southern Word Executive Director Benjamin Smith, speaking via phone to Rayford’s impact. “He’s one of our key mentors.” He’s also an emcee.
Since 2005 Rayford has issued well over a dozen releases under his Rashad Tha Poet moniker, adding an impressive musical output to his already-heavy creative workload. His latest, Less is More, stands as something of an abbreviated mixtape, with its seven tracks using soul and jazz-inspired beats from Oddisee, No I.D., Rashad Thompson, Trent Taylor, and Caveman the Wise to underscore the EP’s nonlinear storytelling. Thematically, the music finds Rayford searching for clarity in his relationships, certainly with others but primarily with himself. “Swear I ain’t preachin’,” he relates in the EP’s closing track, “this is just mirror talk.”
The set’s lone lyrical collaboration comes from Fyütch, whose wit and charm are abundant on “Wicked.” At its most basic the song’s a conversation between friends, each relating memories of near misses and romantic could-have-beens. “In middle school I used to memorize Shakespeare sonnets and couldn’t wait to get married,” relates Fyütch via email. “So I have a ton of stories of being in the ‘friend zone’, or just hilarious attempts to spit game to a girl that got me laughed at or talked about behind my back.” “But then again,” he continues, playfully painting himself equal parts victim and hero, “I always got the last laugh lookin’ all sexy on stage.”
In spoken word, being “on” suggests an aim for the profound: a lyrical exploration blending self-discovery with purposeful social observations. Add to this a self-imposed drive to exist as a positive role model in the community, and being “on” can quickly become exhausting. Less is More exists as a complementary piece to this mindspace, revealing itself as a brief detour, existing so Rashad Tha Poet can flex his creativity while giving Rashad Rayford a break from having to be “on” all the time.