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On Calm in the Storm, SageModeWrex offers wise insight into weathering life’s challenges. Photo by Stephen Cervantes

We certainly live in weird times. Between a genocidal war in the Middle East looking like a prelude to WWIII, a vice-like economic structure squeezing every last cent out of us at every turn, and a political divide as wide as it has been since the 1960s, it can all be more than a little overwhelming. Music can often be an escape from the noise. That counts doubly when the sounds are specifically intended to serve as a refuge.

While the latest release by thoughtful Fort Worth rapper SageModeWrex — the tranquil and soothing EP Calm in the Storm — is meant, like much of his work, to be a personal meditation of sorts, it offers valuable insight for listeners to follow for centering their own perspectives and a way to navigate through life’s external turmoil.

Recently released through Wrex’s own imprint, Mount Olympus, the five tracks on Calm were recorded at Fort Worth’s Crooked2th Studios, with the sessions engineered, mixed, and mastered by Fostepco (Tropicanna, Slug DLO). The languid beats were produced by Wrex’s longtime collaborator 4D Tha OG (Cali Cuddy, Amerika Akbar), who provided the sounds on Wrex’s previous works like The Wrex Files and Professor Wrex. 4D’s production offers the perfect soundscape for Wrex’s introspective rhymes.

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In his own words, Calm is him “focusing on the things within my control — breathing, staying present, working towards my goals — despite the chaos of the world. Weird energy, the internet hive mind, comparisons, et cetera — I’m trying to stay independent of outside influence.”

Each of the EP’s five tracks present themselves as affirmations, offering peace, perspective, acceptance, and control. Opener “High Beams” is a meditation on foresight. Wrex speaks of focus and concentration, using these powers to control his own destiny. “I can see what’s in front of me / But I’m not sure what’s down the road / Can I manifest a dream? / Can I reach my biggest goals?”

“Time Don’t Exist” is a lesson on being present in the moment and staving off one’s inner demons, with Wrex rapping, “These are just my diaries / My lower forms / My higher me’s / My confidence and insecurities / Battle with the man that the mirror sees,” while “Family to Feed” is a mature rumination on responsibility and accountability.

The record’s closer, “That’s All Folks,” is the album’s standout. Attacking the genocide in Gaza right out of the gate, Wrex takes the listener through a dire roll of tragedies, disappointments, and frustrations with the world before flipping the tone and lifting us up with a message of hope: “I’m just trying to live, learn, and teach / Spreading love / Because I feel that is really what we need.”

It’s this last line that seems to encapsulate the work’s theme. The world is chaotic, but we have control over how we handle it. We accept what we can, we persevere, and we live on, with love as the thing that makes it possible.

Though the EP is meant as such, after a period of “calm” in which Wrex’s output has slowed, a storm of new material from him is forming. He appears on seven tracks on Dru B Shinin’s new album Featuring …, and he’s also just finished work on an EP with local rap supergroup Mount Olympus, which features Fort Worth’s top tier in hip-hop traditionalists like Dru, Aroy, Kwu Lion, and YKK. Then Wrex has another EP of his own material slated for a summer drop.

“I’m getting back to being prolific and giving away as much music as possible this year for the ones who enjoy it,” he said.

Fans of hip-hop and hope are the beneficiaries. SageModeWrex’s voice is a much-needed one not only in town but on this planet.

Courtesy Mount Olympus ENT

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