I turn 28 tomorrow and I’m feeling it. I vividly recall a phone call from a health insurer when I was 18. She was looking to clarify my age for the purposes of calculating a premium. “I’m 10,” I declared, unthinkingly. The call center worker was sceptical. “Sorry, I’m 18.” Maybe that was the ultimate time. A lot of people want to be stuck at an age when they can legally club and smoke and sex and vote but I’m into the golden decade, where the most difficult question I was faced with was which cartoon to watch on Saturday morning. At 18 I couldn’t hold onto my age. I’ve always suffered from cultural amnesia – when I can’t recall the ending to a movie adaptation a month after I finished the book – but, at 27 and 364 days, it seems I’ve started to forget things entirely. Like the fact that I posted on B Wise’s ‘Prince Akeem‘ almost two and a half years ago. Because it’s the night before my birthday, I’m giving myself a hall pass. Plus, it’s hardly fair that B Wise should expect me to remember him from a quarter of a decade ago when this new track I’ve been getting into over the last week or so is such a shift from the artist.
The last time we heard from the Western Sydney MC, he was rapping deliriously over a Raph Lauren beat, building an entire track around a borrowed character from Eddie Murphy’s ‘Coming To America’. On ‘No Questions’, from his ‘Semi-Pro’ EP out last year, B Wise changes things up, switching out high energy irony for down tempo introspection. Despite the fact that Drake has made an art form (and a fortune) out of tortured self-reflection, translating lived experience into lyrics – and, more importantly, getting an audience to invest in that narrative – is no mean feat. Notwithstanding the EP’s title, B Wise is impressively proficient at turning his biography into a relatable, evocative track. We’ve all had the same experiences and share some of the same memories he describes – early family times, young friendships, awkward romances – but while everybody has a story, some are better than others at telling it.
It’s fitting that, as my relatively young brain degrades, I should be taken with a song so steeped in history. My forgetting that I first crushed on B Wise in 2015 says a lot about his versatility as an artist, and my coming back to him today probably says something about the function of memory. As so much of our lived experience fills the space behind us, it is imperative, as the higher energy verse towards the end of ‘No Questions’ hints, to look to the future with an even greater sense of purpose. I love the way this song blooms, from humble drums and sample beginnings to a far lusher, synth-based soundscape. The arc of the song, and its narrative, seem to flirt with one of the ultimate, existential questions: ‘What would you have done differently, given the chance?’ The most impressive answer we can give, after all, is B Wise’s: ‘I’d do it all the same; no questions.’
B Wise – No Questions