The story behind MoThoro is relatively unconventional in hip-hop. This past spring, the 23 year old received his master’s degree in business from Hampton University. Hailing from a city which has spawned rap legends like G Perico and Nipsey Hussle, the gangster turned rap mogul and entrepreneur story is a familiar one. But an artist receiving an advanced degree from a top HBCU is much less common.
Although Primetime is the sixth solo body of work from MoThoro, this entry feels like a debut. Why? Because this marks a new chapter in his life. Post college, post grad school, back in L.A. with the hunger to pursue music. Still, on “Overdrive,” he raps “At first we didn’t make a dime off this music bro, now I gotta support mine or go cubical,” emphasizing the fork in the road he currently feels he’s at.
On the opening song “Writer’s Block,” he openly touches on coming to a creative standstill and makes a great lyrical recycle of Hurricane Chris’ 2007 smash hit “Ayy Bay Bay.” MoThoro’s frequent switch between rapping and singing is playful here, as it is throughout the rest of the project. He carries this momentum into the second track, “I’m Just Me.” As to be expected from the title, it’s a song about Mo’s desire to remain himself, an unapologetic fight song over trap drums.
Perhaps the cornerstone of the album arrives on “Liberated / Introverted,” which features Heather and samples SWV’s classic “Rain.” This slow jam shows off the beautiful dynamic between MoThoro and Heather, showcased on their joint EP, Sesh. MoThoro may not be the most technically gifted singer in the world — his voice can sound like a stuffy nose at times — but there’s an endearing quality that helps create that desired feeling.
Mothoro and Heather reunite once again on the following track “Good Luck” which of course is a parting ways track. You might say it’s the “best wishes” follow up to their earlier collaboration “Not Speaking.” The beat has a nice bounce to it with the funky synths in the background, while the mutual agreement to “speak at homecoming” is quite realistic.
By the time “Hit My Line” comes on, the self-reflection and awareness gives way to a danceable, afrobeat smash featuring Amindi. However, the heaviest song on Primetime arrives just after on “Addiction,” where MoThoro speaks on obsession with social media and hiding his true self behind the keyboard. News clips throughout the song drive the point home, while the eerie production creates an unstable atmosphere.
Doubling back to the album cover, we find a smiling MoThoro sporting a Dodger cap and a shirt displaying an adapted Panda Express logo. When asked why Panda Express, he said, “The Panda is symbolic of the ability to find a balanced and nurturing path through life. It will encourage those who have it as a totem or power animal, to integrate different aspects of their personality in a harmonious whole.”
Of course a meal at Panda Express is incomplete without a fortune cookie. What would be written on his paper scroll. “Life gets easier once you got a plan, and if you don’t get it right the first time, then you plot again.” It’s a fitting line from “Top Ramen to Lobster.”
Primetime is executive produced by MoThoro, along with mixing and mastering from Walt Mansa and himself. Additional production comes from Walt Mansa, Mark “the Mogul” Jackson, DDK Sound, AMS Jequcory Davis.