David Ramos might be the most emotionally honest emcee in the history of the rap game. I don’t know if that’s a trophy many rappers would display on the mantle, but I doubt David (pronounced Dah-veed) has a problem with it. He’s the guy in your family who drives grandma to her doctor’s appointment. Checks in and plays a game of chess with his crazy uncle. Makes it to his nieces quince and brings a thoughtful gift full of sentiment. He doesn’t do it out of any sense of obligation, he does it because he’s unable not to. And that’s how we, as listeners, get a record like, Sento La Tua Mancanza.
On first listen, it sounds like a Fake Four release. I don’t know for sure who did the production but I’m hearing elements, influences, and maybe even contributions from labelmates like Cars and Trains, Rickolus, Alexander Chen (Boy in Static, Consulate General), and Green Carpeted Stairs. Guitars over sparse drums, synths and keys and effected melodic hooks.
What I love best about the production is it appears sample-less. The beats are musical and are capable of morphing and flipping organically. This kind of minimal production is the perfect vehicle for David Ramos’ narrative. His flow is at times melodic, rapid fire, abstractly literal. The lack of any real hooks simply means when it comes, it sticks, as on Hollow Days. Put the two together and what you have isn’t the most poppy, or even avante-garde release. What you have is a sound that belongs to David Ramos and David Ramos alone.
This is the kind of record that doesn’t come along often because rappers are embarrassed to admit or are incapable of feeling this deeply. I find that tragic. David Ramos has given us a record that is bleak, joy-less, and yet ultimately hopeful. Its creation is embedded in a fool’s magical thinking. It’s that feeling you get like it’s your fault your mom’s car broke down because you did something and didn’t get caught.
The universe’s justice. I don’t know, maybe that’s just the Catholic in me. These songs were made to sustain a life that had run its course. These songs had a purpose. A purpose that was doomed from the beginning and Ramos knew it. In the end, we’re left with the pieces… thrown together in a kind of homage to a love lost. A kind of found-art mosaic, each tile another facet of a relationship, a hairbrush, a birthday card, a dirty dish in the sink, each one necessary to sustain the life left behind. The remains thrown together in song after song become a tribute to the beginning of the end.
This is an artist dealing with loss in a very honest and open way. We are a generation charged with taking care of its elders. Society’s safety nets have rotted. The dream of retirement and self-sustenance a fantasy. We are the ones who’re spooning split pea soup into our once proud father’s tired, cracking lips. And when we do, we’ll remember the real reason that we do it – love. These people have loved us more than we ever deserved. Took care of us when we were incorrigible brats, inconsiderate children. Accepted us like we can never hope to be accepted ever again. And this generational role is celebrated even as Ramos mourns. There are moments, like on Find Heaven, when hope begins to emerge from the black, like ink stains drying.
The album’s title, Sento La Tua Mancanza, translates to, “your absense is felt,” or “you are missed.” I’m not sure when I’d bump this except during those times when life makes no sense, the world confusing and seeming to get over on me, feeling lost, alone, taken advantage of, not in a mad way but in a very sad way, no bravado, but tears, when I look not for catharsis but to sit in the sadness, celebrating its existence, recalling the departed, mourning the routines of a life I’ll never live again. And that I can get with.
My marriage recently ended, and I’ve sat on the edge of my bed with my head heavy in my hands more times than I care to readily admit. But hearing an album like this makes me know that what I feel isn’t only normal. It’s necessary. The absence of something or someone that was so central to a day to day existence is to be felt, and felt deeply. To not is fiction, or self-destruction. Both have played their parts in my process. But weed and whiskey cure only so much, if anything. David Ramos has reminded me that facing loss head on, openly, soul bleeding, face to the sky and crying is the only way to move beyond. Thank you.