Skarr Akbar Finally Unveils His Beautiful Mind
It’s commonplace for unsigned rappers to keep throwing out free releases on the mixtape circuit for months or years while hyping up their eventual (and, they hope, major label) proper debut album. Baltimore’s Skarr Akbar is no exception, but he’s taken the practice to an unusual extreme, touting the forthcoming album Da Beautiful Mind for over half a decade—he spoke at length about the album the first time I interviewed him in 2005, and for all I know he’s been holding onto that title since the Russell Crowe film A Beautiful Mind was released in 2001. And now, all these years later, it’s finally here, albeit with a slightly different title and presented more as another free mixtape, available for streaming and download on DatPiff.com.
The Beautiful Mind is billed as a “Block Work Bootleg,” as part of the DJ Jabril’s Block Work prestige series of solo mixtapes from many of Baltimore’s most high-profile MCs. No matter how it’s released, however, as with most Skarr Akbar releases it’s more album than mixtape, with 17 songs featuring original production primarily by the artist himself. So while it’s tempting to analyze The Beautiful Mind as the long-awaited masterpiece six years in the making, it’s more satisfying to appreciate it as another in a long line of solid Skarr Akbar releases like The Pursuit of Happyness and The Epidemic. One of the more immediate highlights, “Goodnight,” features some awesome snare drum fills panning from right to left, and a guest verse from Los, the one-time Skarr Akbar protégé who’s now a star in his own right. And on “T.O.M. (That’s On Me),” Akbar addresses the dimming prospects of him ever becoming a mainstream star with typically sly bravado: “The industry’s gettin’ worse and I’m just gettin’ better.”