Without You – [Raff Alpha] x [Leroy Torawno]

Raff Alpha is a hip-hop artist from Baltimore, Maryland. Being a dual artist and producer, Raff’s signature sound is traditional boom bap and soul. Having performed numerous shows, Raff has opened up for Talib Kweli, Jay Electronica, Curren$y, R.A. The Rugged Man, Method Man, Redman, Styles P, Dead Prez, Jay Rock, Joyner Lucas, and more. In many ways, Alpha is the epitome of the phrase ‘your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper,’ despite owning an underdog status throughout his career. Entirely independent, Raff is a part of the creative talent agency “Project FILO,” while also being the founder of his own record label “Omega Academy.” Including mixtapes, Raff has an impressive six projects in his discography: The Soul Goods, Alpha’s Rhyme Book, Positive Pain, Never Surrender, The Alpha Male EP, and his latest album, Archangel Gabriel, released in 2018. In my opinion, Archangel Gabriel is Raff’s best release to date. While the album is very much a spiritual project, Raff’s traditional old school flows remain. Raff considers this body of work to be his most personal, visualizing each track as separate messages from God. The final track, “Momma Tonya’s Prayer,” is a recorded prayer from Alpha’s mother. Despite the year following being a quiet one for Raff, the Baltimore emcee released two phenomenal singles: “No Excuses,” produced by London native K, Le Maestro, and “Get Used to My Face,” a friendly banger featuring his longtime girlfriend Brea Milan.

Now 2020, Raff has steadily re-entered the rap game, releasing two singles titled “Deep Thought” and “Without You.” “The former was released in March, dedicated to/in memory of Crenshaw’s finest Nipsey Hussle. The latter, “Without You,” is the latest record from Raff, produced by Toronto producer Leroy Torawno. Torawno himself has production credits from Lil Wayne, Logic, Lil B, Joe Budden, Troy Ave, and NBA player Marvin Bagley III just to name a few. The intricately colorful artwork was handcraft painted by Shuto Okayasu, an extremely gifted artist from Saitama, City, Japan, now residing in NYC. Right off the bat, Raff delivers a lyrical bombardment: “We playing chess not checkers my boys always applying pressure, I never will lose I’m built for wear and tear like polyester, spitting a lecture more holier than the grounds of Mecca I’m not the aggressor, we just shut down rappers that test us.” Beyond his ability to endlessly spit bar for bar, there is always a heartfelt element to a Raff Alpha song. On this song, Alpha speaks about a close friend and family member; both of whom have been locked up for past mistakes. In the latter case, Raff openly expresses how he felt a form of guilt and even responsibility for his uncle’s circumstances. However, the chorus allows for the record to end on a positive note, as Raff sings: “Nowadays your boy been on a mission, tryna’ put my whole conglomerate in good position, ya’ll was there for me when everybody else was missing, so if you ever fall I’ll pick you right up with the quickness.” It is one thing for an established/high profiled artist to profess a charitable motive. However, it is an entirely different level when an artist such as Raff Alpha, still on his personal journey for recognition, prioritizes others beyond himself. For Raff, however, this feat is easy, because as Alpha says, he can’t do anything without YOU!

Words by Brandon Washington