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Substantial

You can call Stan “Substantial” Robinson a “thinking man’s rapper,” but that statement doesn’t accurately capture the MC’s artistry and humility. On his fourth official solo album, The Past Is Always Present In The Future, Substantial—who has taught in Prince George’s County, Maryland—has managed to craft an album that feels like a culmination of his past work, while managing to keep its lyrical themes rooted firmly in the here and now.

The late, great writer James Baldwin wrote in 1965, “The great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do.” Substantial used that quote as an inspiration and an anchor for his new album, mixing honest songwriting and controlled passion to convey a single, specific idea: No matter a person’s past, it’s how they…

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