A raw, hard-hitting rap about heritage, perseverance, inner strength, and passion, “Letter From Portsmouth” is an epic two-minute artistic statement that tells us who Verb Tec is and why he’s here for good.
There ain’t no progress without struggle to grow from…
The thrilling final track off Philadelphia rapper Verb Tec and producer Vanderslice’s second album is as high-energy and emphatic as they come: An irresistible reminder that sometimes, it’s worth saving some of the best for last – and that quality always beats quantity. A raw, hard-hitting rap about heritage, perseverance, inner strength, and passion, “Letter From Portsmouth” is an epic two-minute artistic statement that tells us who Verb Tec is and why he’s here for good.
My great grandmother still alive
so kill the lie that you could ever kill the vibe
can’t be prepared for a world you can’t see as fair
on my side its never been hip to be square
they put you in a box and that’s what hurts the most
then you decrease your circumference
to keep your circle close
we had hope thinking that we could rap forever
but when you broke it’s hard
to put the pieces back together
between you and me looking for opportunity
awhile ago it seems that she stopped pursuing me
they say “Verb, your shit harder than what they others say”
I can’t explain it cause I don’t know no other way
I’m trying not to stray probably time I drop and pray
usually I hear the devil whispering but not today
Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering the Josh “Esso” Wann directed music video for “Letter from Portsmouth,” the final track off Verb Tec & Vanderslice’s album, No Struggle No Progress. Independently released December 10, 2021, No Struggle No Progress quietly arrived at the tail end of last year, but there’s nothing quiet about this music. The sophomore effort from rapper Verb Tec and producer Vanderslice sees the longtime friends once again reuniting as a formidable duo, following 2018’s collaborative debut album The Freedom Papers. The pair call this the second installment of their quality over quantity statement – “an attention to detail, no answers just effort release” picking up where the last one left off.
In our recent feature on the full album, Atwood Magazine praised No Struggle No Progress as “a sweeping, cinematic rap album rooted in truth, freedom, and perseverance.” These three pillars can be felt throughout the record as Tec raps about his take on life in the 2020s and the obstacles he’s had to overcome to get to where he is today – but there’s a particular power running through the album’s finale that hits home.
The simians convinced us that we are all apes, but I’m a descendant from a lineage of all greats.
“My mother’s side of my family is from the Portsmouth, VA’s Tidewater area,” Tec explains. “As the last song on the record, I wanted to dedicate it to that city as it is my place of familial reference. My great-grandmother, who was a lifetime resident, also passed in late 2020 as I was writing it. I had been sitting on this TROX beat for awhile and wasn’t sure where it would go in the sequence of the other songs. It felt right for it to be the bookend of the record.”
“Also my 12 year old son Tahj has the last line on the song, which is a refrain of the hook, and I had him featured on the last record, too. I just wanted to involve him and make his voice timeless too. He was in-studio with us during the last session when this was recorded.”
even on good behavior, I’m getting looks from neighbors
I’m from a city of dirty cops and crooked mayors
kids survive the fate of the streets and it’s cruel
then gotta hibernate because ain’t no heat in the schools
purged the heartbreak, I emerged from artscape
preserved in dark space that’s far from Park Place
The simians convinced us that we are all apes
but I’m a descendant from a lineage of all greats
without the glitches, ain’t no misses, it’s all makes
without the pumps hesitations and ball fakes
Tec’s strength is at an all-time high as he delivers a two-minute spitfire (no verses or choruses) all about who he is, where he’s come from, and most important of all, why he does what he does: Why he’s here. “Purged the heartbreak, I emerged from artscape, preserved in dark space that’s far from Park Place,” he tells us, following up with the instantly memorable line, “The simians convinced us that we are all apes, but I’m a descendant from a lineage of all greats.”
Coming from the schools of great artists like Rakim, Black Thought, Pharaohe Monch, and Common Sense, Tec’s raps are a finessed blend of social critique, personal experience, and creative (rhyme) scheming. He wastes no breaths and he doesn’t necessarily need a hook for his music to sink in: It does that automatically, so long as we’re listening.
And with his bold voice front and center, Tec all but ensures that we listen in, and listen well.
Now with a visual component, “Letter From Portsmouth” is undeniable in spirit. “I wanted a video that created the same energy as the track, and Esso was able to help guide the creative process and we were able to create a narrative that worked,” Tec says. “I also wanted to shoot in film and black and white to give it a completely different aesthetic.”
The result feels like a blend of the old and the new, which is in so many ways what Verb Tec and Vanderslice’s two projects are all about: Refreshing a classic hip-hop aesthetic with dynamic bars and provocative insights that inspire the mind and rejuvenate the soul. Legacy and owning your identity hold a particularly special place throughout No Struggle No Progress, and this finale certainly seems like an attempt to bridge generations in order to capture both the struggle, and the progress that we face, both on an individual level and on an existential, universal level.
Lastly, we would be remiss not to point out that this video is premiering on February 1st, the start of Black History Month 2022. Rap and hip-hop were born out of predominately Black and Latino communities, and Verb Tec’s art adds to the conversation while further pushing that music forward – meaningfully capturing his own experience as a Black man living in America, as well as his reflections and observations on Black identity – particularly his own. Tec’s lyrical themes of struggle and progress, passion and perseverance resonate even stronger, when considered within the context of this month. For more on his and Vanderslice’s album, read our in-depth No Struggle No Progress feature here.
Stream “Letter From Portsmouth” exclusively on Atwood Magazine.
’80s in the summer time, a writer with a hundred rhymes
there ain’t a price I’d like to make me want to sign
I’ll cross enemy lines with a lone gun and won’t run
I march to the beat of my own drum, I live on blocks
in spots and places you won’t come
there ain’t no progress without struggle to grow from
“Letter From Portsmouth” – Verb Tec & Vanderslice
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📸 © Dan Shahbazian
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