Robert Haggarty - 'RH'

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this Independent Spotlight review, I’ll be taking a look at hip hop rapper Robert Haggarty’s new record that is currently being dropped across the web, called ‘RH.’ Before I delve into this fifteen track record, however, I’ll take a brief look at Haggarty as an artist to give context to the music we’ll be taking a look at.

At first glance, Haggarty is far more proactive and prolific in his pursuit of the arts. He has a nice portfolio of poetry and short stories that he’s published on his official website and he boasts a love of poetry and creative writing. This review is particularly intriguing for me, because Haggarty attended the college I’m currently attending for his creative endeavors: Columbia College Chicago. With a major in fiction writing, his journey has led him into hip hop. Now that we’ve had a brief introduction to Robert Haggarty, let’s dig into ‘RH.’

The first track on ‘RH,’ titled ‘Ringing The Bells In,’ introduces Haggarty in an endearing fashion with a brief explanatory monologue for the record. His realization isn’t entirely original, but essentially Haggarty drops into the record by letting the audience know that life could be a whole lot worse. When his rhymes dig in, they’re powerful... almost accusatory sounding. The song is appealing for a few reasons. First of all, he’s not pretending that he’s a troubled inner city reject from the south side of the city, he’s real. He briefly runs away from home at the beginning of the track, ending up in Wisconsin. Instantly, this honesty makes Haggarty relatable, perhaps even more so than rappers with an overly tragic, even stereotypical upbringing.

There’s a deeper meaning behind this music right off of the bat. Haggarty slips in and out of sly rhymes as he explains how he used to smoke, but gave it up when he realized that people cared for him. He ponders the level of life one must be driven down into in order to have to rob someone to stay afloat. Your problems may feel real, but hell, at least you aren’t the person grabbing $20 at gunpoint.

‘Say The Things You Say’ has a sweet production in the backdrop,; it’s cinematic and suave. The song is introspective in nature, focusing on family travels and places that have made him higher than a good run in with Nyquil could ever make him. This song is certainly the first time I’ve heard great lyrical words like “philosophize” this side of 1962. (‘The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll, Bob Dylan, comes to mind.) The song toys with political messages as well, such as a concern with governmental data collecting.

‘46’ has a beautiful sample centerpiece that kicks off the jam. Haggarty contemplates all sorts of notions here, namely a confused country that’s never truly recovered post September 11th, one that’s overly paranoid and dependent on a “24-hour tele-news infection.” Furthermore, his grandpa has lost his pension, the nation is ultimately focused on incredulously unimportant pop-culture filth, and we’re 46th in worldwide press freedom. This song kicks you in the face harder than Jeff Daniel’s ‘Newsroom’ speech at Northwestern. Are we truly the greatest country in the world?

‘Bring Me Kepler’ has a beautiful atmospheric vibe with saddened vocals; he’s reminiscing since a girl from his high school passed away. It’s a mental health awareness song at heart. Personally, this song touched me since I have been on a mission to increase awareness of suicide and mental health after being present during a school shooting last December. It’s a track like this that will bring Haggarty’s lyrics close to home for audiences, hopefully sparking meaningful debate.

‘Embrace or Attack’ is a beautifully produced number, focusing on a fictional alien who attempts to aid humankind but is met with alarming hostility, causing the human race to drive itself to ruin. ‘Miss Universe’ is Haggarty’s vision for world peace, as if he was a contestant for Miss Universe. It’s his favorite beat on the record, and it’s mine, too. ‘I’m Going Into Stocks!’ criticizes Wall Street, playing with the notion of the government extorting citizens and ambitious stock brokers who get into shady dealings.

‘Sufferin Succotash’ is a refreshing beat, featuring a guest vocalist and a surprisingly delightful reggae style. The song continues Haggarty’s ruthless pursuit of injustice in America, satirizing corrupted big business that destroys the blue collar worker and gets subpoenas dished out like candy amidst a scene of equally corrupt government officials, judges, lobbyists and more. ‘Pizza’ begins in a seemingly comedic fashion... he’s out of pizza! Quickly, though, he delves into the pressure of our generation and the burden of student loans. How do we rise up as a generation if we’re beaten too far down fiscally and socially?

‘Young Populi’ showcases Haggarty’s extreme frustration with the American mentality: talking all day long without necessarily walking the walk as well. He wants to reach out to the world and give a helping hand, but he can’t extend it very far. He’s hoping the government shifts positions over the next few decades to be more favorable to a more dynamic generation. ‘From Death Springs Life’ tells the story of a deadbeat dad who never had the opportunity to make it in society. When he kicked the bucket tragically, his death brings indirect meaning to the life of his son, who grew up understanding how to get through life following a dream.

‘Where’s Einstein’ has the most intriguing sampled production; it’s really quite unique. It’s a ballad of self-creativity, the beauty of building something yourself and becoming great through your own ingenuity and motivation. ‘The Age to Break States’ has a wonderfully minimalistic production. ‘Passing Away’ introspectively contemplates death and dying. ‘Pop Tart Dreams’ exits the record with an uplifting message after a record of dismal revelations. There aren’t any obstacles besides falling asleep, or so Haggarty philosophizes.

Normally I give about 800 words to these reviews. Once I got into Robert Haggarty’s ‘RH,’ however, I got sucked into a mystifying landscape of exceptional lyricism, strong production, and powerfully invigorating messages. This record is something very, very special, and a must-listen for anyone who needs to blow steam about what’s wrong with the world, and then wants to get around to fixing it.

Check out Robert online: