“I’m a legend, y’all know I’m a legend… and after what I saw, I’m here to tell you Rhino is a legend too.” -Jeru The Damaja

“I’ve only ever seen one performer who could compare to him, and that’s Supernatural. Next to Supernatural, that dude is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen. I’ve never seen anything like him in my life.” -Chali 2na (Jurassic 5)

Whirling and chewing through rocks and trees, terrifying wildlife… wait, that’s the Tasmanian Devil, not The Mighty Rhino! But it’s an apt comparison for this irrepressibly dynamic rapper, whose debut album He Whom The Beat Sets Free Is Free Indeed is due out December 1st, 2011. Hailing as he does from a milquetoast, well-to-do Jewish enclave in the Toronto suburb of North York, no one would expect the nebbishy-looking kid born Noah Goodbaum to have the makings of a great rapper. But there he was, appearing at Never Forgive Action’s riotous monthly Hip Hop Karaoke nights, garnering a loyal following simply by showing up and attacking the mic with remarkable verbal dexterity, quintessential showmanship, and enough explosive energy to crack the world wide open. Eventually Rhino’s antics caught the attention of Maclean’s magazine, who called his stage presence “electric” (Jordan Timm, Christmas 2007), of a host of rap legends (along with Jeru and 2na, he’s made fans of Masta Ace, Michie Mee and Das EFX), and of the estimable Toronto rap veteran More Or Les, who featured him on two standout songs on his Exclaim! Top 10 of 2010-shortlisted album Brunch With A Vengeance. The two had the kind of je ne sais quoi chemistry that can’t be faked, and the result was a blistering rap attack that had listeners across the country echoing Exclaim!’s Thomas Quinlan: “More Rhino, please!”

And more Rhino is what they got. It might have been easy to throw out a quick-fix insta-mixtape, but instead Rhino and executive producer Measuring Man (an accomplished mix engineer for the likes of rock legends Rush, bluesman Chris Antonik and Juno nominees Digging Roots) holed up at Silverbirch Productions for eighteen months and slowly, painstakingly, crafted an album of truly exceptional music. The 16-track slumper features marvelous guest contributions from Juno-winning Canadian rap royalty Thrust (of “Northern Touch” fame), red-haired Georgia fire-spitter Rittz (affiliated with Shady Records signee Yelawolf), the enchanting downtempo chanteuse Cynthia Hallett (Sweet Like Poison), and, in a career-topping lyrical onslaught, Rhino’s old friend More Or Les. This feast of rap delights is bolstered by an arsenal of forward-thinking, mind-crushing beats from an illustrious six-man crew including, but not limited to, Remot (the Coldplay-approved winner of the 2007 HipHopDX American Gangster remix contest), double 2010 Juno nominee Fresh Kils (D-Sisive – Vaudeville, Ghettosocks – Treat of the Day), and Rhino’s own blood brother Digs (Shad – When This Is Over.) With a diverse sonic palette ranging from dusty-fingers East Coast boom bap to swamp-water Down South country rap, it’s a marvelous opportunity that Rhino, still drunk with the love of a rap fan who started out dancing to De La Soul in his brother’s apartment, seizes with a crazy man’s fervour, in what he calls “an explosion of light”.

And does he ever. Rhino is a game-spitter par excellence, with a knack for that special turn of phrase that cuts to the quick and makes you scrunch your face up like, ‘Damn!’. Building on that reputation, He Whom The Beat… intertwines the sacred and the profane, with Rhino’s persona equal parts restless intelligence and foul-mouthed insanity. The live-wire charisma of his stage show is present, but here Rhino’s mandate (as outlined by the galvanizing opener “Mission Statement”) is to “contribute [a] particular vision of truth and beauty]”, and so there’s an exquisitely tender kiss-off to an ex (“Company Policy”), melancholic tone-poetry (“Slow Rollin'”), political fury (“I Can’t Call It”), and a searing meditation on existential angst (“Tryna Make A Life Out Here”) alongside the high-octane Les and Rittz collabo “Whaddup Witcha” and the hilarious “Putcha Ankles In It”. It’s joyous, life-affirming rap music, and it’s tons of fun. No matter who you are, you’ve never heard anything quite like him. There are folks who rap, and then there are those who rip mics to shreds as if their lives depended on it. Rhino doesn’t just rep for this set — he hoists the banner aloft.