4 posts categorized "BeatTips Rating"

November 18, 2014

Extended Shelf-Life: Bronze Nazareth's 'School for the Blindman' — One of the Best Rap Albums in Decades

Soulfully Hard and Authentic, Loaded with Dope Beats and Edgy Rhymes, School for the Blindman Confirms that Bronze Nazareth and The Wisemen are in League of their Own

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)


BeatTips Rating: 5/5

"Roll dice in old piss" —Bronze Nazareth

We often like and celebrate an album because of its power to take us somewhere. The vivid images that it calls up; the memories that it inspires; the emotions that it makes us feel — these are the things that, when present and prominent on an album, take us somewhere.


Hit play on Bronze Nazareth’s enigmatic album School for the Blindman (iHipHop Distribution), and you’re instantly transported to a music world that’s oblivious —thankfully so — to the oversaturated, gutless or otherwise cookie-cutter abstracts that make up most of what we know as mainstream rap music today. But School for the Blindman doesn’t just stand out as an obvious counterpunch to the jingle-filled, 808-dominated rap, it distinguishes itself from all other recent underground offerings as well. In fact, I find School for the Blindman to be one of the best hip hop/rap albums in decades.


Prior to School for the Blindman, the only other hip hop/rap albums that I found that I could listen to straight through with repeat extended plays were lllmatic (Nas) and Supreme Clientele (Ghostface Killah). And like those two classic albums, School for the Blindman also stands out because of it’s stellar, ear-catching production (soul samples & ill drums galore) and concrete rhymes. No beat on School for the Blindman is a mail-in job or simple drum program re-run. Instead, every beat contorts with its own structure and direction.


Truly a “beatmaker’s” beatmaker, Bronze’s production (he produced all but three tracks on the album) illustrates organic drums, well-conceived chops and arrangements, uniquely filtered phrases, and a powerful injection of feeling. As per Bronze’s style and sound, the art of sampling shapes the entire framework of School for the Blindman. And as with his previous efforts, all of the frequencies sampled and flipped make up amazingly hypnotic sonic textures that hold you at attention and demand frequent replays. (Bronze employs a smooth but defiant sampling style that priorities feel over needless complexity; thus the main reason that his beats draw you in.)



As far as the rhymes go, here, too Bronze shines. On “Fresh from the Morgue,” which features one of the dopest sounding hooks ever and a verse from The RZA, Bronze drops this quotable, “I’m so ill bring in the nurses to see him/my bitch purse is bulimic.” This kind of smart, layered slant rhyme is a staple throughout School for the Blindman. But then there’s the deeply personal “The Letter,” where Bronze’s knack for double (even triple) entendre reaches new stylistic and emotional levels: “I was the worst friend, couldn’t see poison through veins/losing you in vain from making tracks/I shoulda stopped the train.” The verse on “The Letter” and other songs on School for the Blindman cement Bronze’s place among the best producer/rappers of all time.


Although this is a Bronze solo joint, as with vintage Wu-Tang — the Wiseman’s direct influence — The Wisemen show up in force. Salute, Phillie, Kevlaar 7, and June Megaladon are present, each adding their distinct voice and flow to the tracks that they appear on. Each member of the Wisemen carries an aggressive but subdued demeanor. To be certain, they represent a street, workman-like ethos. I’m sure that the labor realities (or lack their of) in Detroit has something to do with this. Indeed, The Wisemen offer up an everyday-man familiarity. Plus, for those who have actually spent time in the streets because of the hard draw of life, and not because of a prospective rap career, The Wisemen are especially refreshing. They paint the scenes of daily life in the hood — the highs, lows, and ironies — with confident strokes of well-stated details.


In addition to Wisemen features, School for the Blindman also gets a literal Wu-Tang assist, as Inspectah Deck, Masta Killa, and The RZA all appear. RZA shows up on four joints (3 of them bonus cuts) and is in top form. Other features include Rain The Quiet Storm, L.A.D. aka La The Darkman, and Killah Priest.


Another paramount feature of School for the Blindman is the level of authenticity that it exudes. The feel of the whole album is as hard as it is emotional, as street gutter as it is fine art. Each song brims with confidence and emerges as an exact, creative and sure-guided piece of art. This is because Bronze is deeply conscious musically and politically (peep the Martin and Malcolm messages), and as such, he’s concerned with recapturing feeling, a specific feeling, one from a soulful and more noble time in Black American history.


With this focus as a guide, there are no bells and whistles on School for the Blindman, only rough-stock beats and rhyme darts! Which means that the level of confidence — even, decadence — on School for the Blindman is the kind of natural confidence that only comes from a certainty in one’s self and chosen journey. And that’s just it: Right now, Bronze and the Wisemen collective are in a rap league all of their own. They draw energy from the essence of their squad; they don’t come off as an overworked caricature of guys from the street. Instead, they showcase an honest handle on their station in life and demonstrate that they’re an authentic and earnest crew, not a fastened together boy band masquerading as a rap clique.


When I reviewed The Wisemen’s Children of a Lesser God more than a year ago, I asked, rhetorically, if The Wisemen match or surpass the Wu-Tang Clan? My answer was no, of course. But I submitted then that The Wisemen’s aim and effort to stay true to their pedigree and influences is what allowed (allows) them to create something authentically theirs — something that would stand for others to attempt to emulate, match, or surpass. This, I continued, was the continuum promise of a dope pedigree. But after listening to School for the Blindman, I no longer think that the question of whether The Wisemen match or surpass the Wu-Tang Clan is applicable. Direct Wu-Tang influences aside, Bronze and The Wiseman have successfully navigated a course that now has them in a league all of their own. In today’s rap scene, there are few collectives (if any) that are comparable in style, sound, weight, and consistency to The Wisemen.


BeatTips Rating Breakdown

Favorite Joints

“The Letter”
One of the most moving songs that I’ve heard, any genre! This hard-hitting “letter” to a dead friend, taken to soon by the jaws of drug addiction, is absolutely chilling…and beautiful. Bronze is himself on every track for sure, but on “The Letter,” he travels deeper into his heart and taps into a pain that’s made up of a triple cocktail of loss, confusion, and guilt. The beat (which, by the way gives a clinic on how to pitch up a sample and loop it) holds this sort of smooth rumble to it. So effective is the filtering, the chops, and mix on this joint, it sounds as if the vocal “oooing” — that rides through the better part of the track — is separate and on top of everything. And the drums, which feature a highly tucked, almost muffled kick and a punching snare that features a chorus on every 4th hit, are simply masterful. With three primary sampling elements (as far as I can tell, there could be more) that dissolve into each other, this drum-work scheme sounds even more impressive.

Bronze Nazareth - "The Letter"

Bronze Nazareth - "King of Queens"


“Fresh From The Morgue” ft. The RZA (This joint is multidimensional dope! Soon as the hook drops, you’re rocking along to the song.)
“King of Queens” (Prod. Ernesto LTD)
“4th Down” ft. Salute, Kevlaar 7, Phillie (Pay attention to the sample flip on this joint!)
“Gomorrah” ft. Killah Priest (Prod. by Kevlaar 7)
“Worship” ft. Salute, Phillie, Kevlaar 7 of Wisemen
“The Records We Used to Play”
“Jesus Feet”

Bronze Nazareth feat. Killah Priest - "Gomorrah" (Prod. by Kevlar 7)

Bronze Nazareth feat. RZA - “Fresh From The Morgue”


Sureshot Singles

“4th Down” ft. Salute, Kevlaar 7, Phillie
“Carpet Burns” (bonus song)
“Gomorrah” ft. Killah Priest (Prod. by Kevlaar 7)
Worship Ft. Salute, Phillie, Kevlaar 7 of Wisemen
“King of Queens” (Prod. Ernesto LTD)

Bronze Nazarath feat. Salute, Phillie, and Kevlar 7 of Wisemen - "Worship"

Sleeper Cuts

There are no sleeper cuts on here; all of them will catch your attention on the first listen.


Gripes and Weak Moments

NONE


Final Analysis

What ultimately makes School for the Blindman sore is its very nature — a subdued, soulful — beat send-up with authentic rap voices. You get the feeling that Bronze knew what he wanted this album to be — a “school” where the echoes and retransformations of soul music helps to guide the thoughts and imagery of each listener. Thus, School for the Blindman delivers an effect that is more like a savvy, entertaining documentary, than a CGI-laden action feature film. So much authentic nuance abounds on this album that you almost miss the polish and forget that Shool for the Blindman is, afterall, a feature and not a documentary film, if we stick with the film metaphore.


I’ve always been of the opinion that an album should be examined (critiqued/reviewed) on what it aims to do, what it purports to be. By this metric alone, School for the Blindman gets a BeatTips Rating™ of 5. The album is a classic. Still, what makes it superb is not that it excels in what Bronze set out for it to be, but that it goes beyond. School for the Blindman demonstrates a timeless combination of theme and execution through a collection of beats and rhymes that live up to each other. And when the beat and rhyme fit as if they were born together, there’s no tougher combination. This occurs again and again on School for the Blindman.

Afterword

I’m almost puzzled as to why Bronze Nazareth and the whole Wisemen collective do not receive decent, ongoing coverage by rap music publications and even those music blogs that seem to pride themselves on pushing good music to the front, trends be damned. But the Wisemen represent a continuum essence, something held over from the concept of hip hop/rap music as a quality experience that pulls you in with dope beats and rhymes and authentic nuance. The Wisemen do not fit within or defer to a caricature of “pop cool” that prioritizes smedium t-shirts, skinny jeans, fake fun or emo synth-lines. They are not an outfit of over-hyped misfit angst pushing out contrived adolescence over sub-par beats. The Wisemen are blue collar stars, indicative of Detroit, the city they rep. Moreover, they are students and masters of a specific rap aesthetic, an art style and sound that holds meaning to them (and countless others around the world). Subsequently, they’re little concerned with trend-chasing critics who seem more interested in being the tastemakers of only one, often diluted branch of hip hop/rap music.


So the only reason that I’m even slightly puzzled by the lack of coverage that The Wisemen receive is because of what they represent and offer. Listen, hip hop/rap music is an indefinite music form. This means that there is no time — era, nuance, style, theme — in its vast tradition that can’t be summoned up, celebrated, and mastered. But as long as music publications fail to realize this important fact, unfortunately, The Wisemen (and any groups of similar stock and trade) may get overlooked.


Here, I’m reminded of something I learned as a kid, and something I tell my son: To be true to yourself is a blessing and a burden. Fortunately, Bronze Nazareth and The Wisemen have accepted the burden along with the blessing.


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The BeatTips Manual by Amir Said (Sa'id).
"The most trusted name in beatmaking."

January 22, 2013

BeatTips Rating: Big Noyd, Large Professor & Kool G Rap – “Naturally Born” (prod. by Ayatollah)

Vintage Rap with Fresh Bite

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

BeatTips Rating: 4.5/5

The knee-jerk tendency is to say that these four rap veterans have “brought back” this style and sound. Truth is much more simpler than that: This style and sound has never left.

Ayatollah has always made smoothly grungy sample-based beats with drums that matter more than thin tin cans. Big Noyd has always made karate-hard rap music that was street serious in rhyme tone, flow, and approach. Large Professor has always dropped rhymes with a steadfast delivery and lyrical chip on his shoulder that conjures up the MC bravado that triumphed at the height of the park-jam era. And Kool G Rap—1/3 of the lyrical trinity that includes Rakim and Big Daddy Kane—has always worked beats as part street poetic, part human film projector, using rhyme bars to seer close-up street experiences and lyrical dexterity in the minds of rap fans.

So the aptly titled “Naturally Born” is not new in the sense that these four stewards of hip hop/rap music are drudging up something lost or forgotten. What is new (or perhaps renewed), however, is the force and intensity of this latest non-tinkerbell offering from four rap pros who collectively tout a long list of similarly biting songs.

The beat is no less than one of Ayatollah's best. Apparent here, as with all of Ayatollah's work, is real-feel timing and a slicing snare that registers in the mix just above a tuck. Then there's the main sample work, where Ayatollah uses a small guitar pluck and riff to rupture the smoothness and otherwise sadness of the strings. Chopping ain't easy; and looping your chops is never as easy as the uninitiated to beatmaking would have some believe. And here, Ayatollah keeps the theme and feel of the beat steady, splashing in a perfect tambourine sprinkle here and there throughout. Through in the scratch hook, cut up by DJ Dutchmaster, and what you have is a hook that comments on the present while nicely backing the theme of "Naturally Born" with some of rap's 2nd Golden era voices.

If “Naturally Born” is any indication of the quality to be found on the forthcoming Coalmine Records compilation, Unearthed, then I suspect it will be one of 2013’s best reviewed and best selling hip hop/rap projects.

---
The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted name in beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

January 19, 2011

The Wisemen's 'Children of A Lesser God': Classic Street Rap in Full Effect

With 'Children of A Lesser God,' The Wisemen Deliver Classic Street Rap; But Don’t Call It a Throwback, the Essence of The Wisemen Has Been Here for Years

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

BeatTips Rating: 5/5

BeatTips Rating Breakdown

To be certain, The Wisemen's album, Children of a Lesser God, is quintessential, unmitigated street rap of the highest quality. I began here because it's necessary to point out. Why? Because at the moment, hip hop/rap music is overly “represented” (I use the term lightly) by three main unfortunate trends: (1) status quo safety efforts, you know, where the top acts do just enough to oil the mainstream machine; (2) lifeless beats and parochial rhymes [where sampling is surface-level at best, and where synth-based creations are either extra emo or just plain too “synthy”]; and (3) publicity-stunt rappers who say or do seemingly anything for attention.

Taken together, these three trends paint a disturbing picture of today’s hip hop/rap music. But this picture is, by any knowledgeable or sensible account, grossly incomplete. Truth is, there’s a lot of good, well-intentioned hip hop/rap music available today. Yet most of it is simply drowned out by waves of mediocrity. Thus in an environment such as this, we need albums like The Wisemen’s Children of A Lesser God to shatter through the Plexiglass.

When you think about it, it’s always been the quintessential street rap album (think Wu-Tang or Nas’s first LP efforts, for instance) that has had the best chance to cut through all the clown noise with something simultaneously threatening, enjoyable, and of course, meaningful. (Maybe that’s one of the reasons this album failed to get proper press coverage when in dropped back in October, 2010; ironically, on the exact same day as The Left’s celebrated Gas Mask. But I digress.)

That being said, street rap albums are a curious thing. They're difficult to pull off, mostly because of the balancing act of authenticity, creativity, and entertainment appeal. And they don’t always hit the mark established by similar albums from hip hop/rap hey-day eras. But The Wisemen’s Children of a Lesser God convincingly strikes the target.

Now, I’d be remiss if I did not mention that the Wisemen artfully use the Wu-Tang architecture as a guide. Here, let’s remember The Wu-Tang Clan: The Wu-Tang Clan were (and still are) in their own league; they were aggressively insular and self-contained; their slang, flows, and metaphors were the codes of their own world—outsiders be damned; they broke from conventional music forms; they rhymed to impress, to challenge, to compete with each other.

Many of these characteristics and qualities come to mind when you listen to The Wisemen’s Children of a Lesser God. And for good reason, as the clear Wu-Tang influence is an actual legitimate connection—The Wisemen front man, Bronze Nazarath is a recognized Wu-affiliate (his link to and work with The RZA has been documented). That being said, however, The Wisemen are not mere emulators of the Wu-Tang style, sound, and mystique; rather, they are the much needed extension of it. An extension, I should add, that is not homage alone, but inspiration, and more importantly, obligation. Indeed, The Wisemen seem to have a deep sense of obligation (duty) to maintain this extension (connection) and to keep alive the influence of one of the most powerful forces in hip hop/rap music history. Fortunately for us, they do a great job in this regard. (I especially liked Children of a Lesser God's inclusion of skits, an element unique to hip hop/rap—not always used or performed effectively—that Wu-Tang perfected.)

But homage and duty to Wu-Tang aside, The Wisemen are keenly devoted to representing themselves and their brand of self-contained community. Indeed, they are not given over to erasing the memory banks of their own background, just for the pursuit of an often romanticized hip hop/rap era (i.e. “the ‘90s”). Instead, The Wisemen understand that while past eras of hip hop/rap music may fade, the essence of these eras remain and never dissolve. As such, the characteristics and nuance of these eras can be studied and used by current music makers for the purpose of creating something that doesn’t simply attempt to mimic, but aims to be just as creative and mutually engaging. Where most of “the ‘90s” revival outfits miss this crucial understanding, The Wisemen absorb and internalize it, rendering a long player (album) that’s just as much reminiscent as it is authentically personal.

In fact, Children of a Lesser God demonstrates how The Wisemen reconcile Detroit’s unique sensibilities with other influential hip hop/rap cities. And I say this to make one thing clear: The Wisemen are NOT hip hop/rap carpetbaggers (like others I’ve noticed), avoiding the sensibility of their home town. On the contrary, The Wisemen are skilled music makers who have connected the rich soul music roots (and nuance) of Detroit to their hip hop/rap influences (some obvious, others not so much). Ultimately, this makes for a style and sound that authentically represents them (their specific interpretations of proven hip hop/rap styles and sounds) and their famed city.

BeatTips Rating Breakdown

Favorite Joints

“Thirsty Fish” ft. Raekwon
(Bronze, Salute, and Raekwon KILL this joint. One of the toughest beats I've ever heard! And Rae is in prime form; you can tell he was diggin' this beat—produced by Kelaar 7)

“Victoriuos Hoods” ft. Victorious, Planet Asia
“Makes Me Want a Shot”
The Illness 2
ft. Illah Days (Verse 1&2), Phillie
“Makes Me Want a Shot”
ft. Salute Da Kidd, Bronze Nazareth, Kevlaar 7

Sureshot Singles

“Thirsty Fish” (10)
“Children of a Lesser God” (10)
“Lucy” (10)
“Makes Me Want a Shot” (10)
“Panic at Vicious Park” (9)
“Victorious Hoods” (10)

Sleeper Cuts

“Faith Doctrine ft. Beace”
“Get U Shot”
“I Gotta Know”
ft. Salute Da Kid, Phillie, Bronze Nazareth, Illah Dayz

Solid Album Cuts
“The Illness 2”
“Do It Again”
“Corn Liquor Thoughts”
“Hurt Lockers”

Gripes and Weak Moments
NONE

Final Analysis

The Wisemen’s Children of a Lesser God is enjoyable. Quite a feat when you consider that most street rap albums are long on the “shock and awe” and short on the enjoy factor. I found that I was able to really chill with this album, you know, dig in to it. This album holds no skip through joints. Beats are not repetitive; each song lays down its own claim. And the song order; the lyrical quality (every rapper in the crew is distinguishable and more than capable); and the timelessness of the dope beats all combine to stop you from rush consumption. I’m also compelled to point out that I found Children of a Lesser God as—if not more—enjoyable than many of my favorite hip hop/rap albums (from the ‘90s til now).

On Children of a Lesser God, there’s no deliberate (or perhaps contrived) social commentary that you might expect to find from the likes of a so-called “conscious rapper.” Yet the social commentary comes through clear in an unflinching, “as told to you” manner. Of course there’s stories of crime, weed and liquor use, and sex-capades. But none of the subject matter on Children of a Lesser God is forced or meant as sensationalism. Instead, the material comes off naturally, with much nuance to take in and subtle lessons to be learned. I appreciate when lyrics inform, enlighten, and challenge without the stench of falsity.

The best parts of The Wisemen’s Children of a Lesser God, notably the songs “Thirsty Fish,” “Victoriuos Hoods,” and “Makes Me Want a Shot” exude a sound, polish, and feel that just isn’t equaled right now. This is not to say that there is no one else offering soul samples and hard raps. Of course there are. But many other acts who are using this formula (soul samples and hard raps) are doing little to draft their own unique blueprints from this foundational formula; nor are they doing a fairly good job at representing the pedigree for which they aim to emulate, match, or surpass. Does this mean that The Wisemen match or surpass the Wu-Tang Clan? No. But it does mean this: In their aim and effort to stay true to their pedigree and influences, they were, in turn, able to create something authentically theirs—something that will now stand for others to attempt to emulate, match, or surpass. That's the continuum promise of a dope pedigree.

Thus, my final overall evaluation of Children of a Lesser God? it’s a 5-star classic. Aside from its cache of razor sharp, crew-backed rhymes and hard—and often eloquent—beats, what truly makes an album like The Wisemen’s Children of A Lesser God a classic is not only it’s ability to take you back, but its enduring power to keep you focused here, in the now, while also giving you a glimpse of the promise of hip hop/rap’s tomorrow.

—Sa'id

November 08, 2010

Statik Selektah and Termanology’s ‘1982’ Is a Classic

Duo Soars with Broadly Complete Album

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

BeatTips Rating: 5/5

The uncompromising creativity of 1982 splashes at you like a golden razor, slicing away your angst for what mostly purports to be hip hop/rap music these days. In fact, not sense Ghostface Killah’s Supreme Clientele, or Gang Starr’s Moment of Truth have I heard a more defiant, well-balanced, and self-defining album in hip hop/rap.

There is an aggressive freedom within 1982. This album roams confidently (decisively) where it wants. Indeed, 1982 is not an overtly ambitious medley of varying tunes for everybody. On the contrary, 1982 is clearly for somebody. It’s for me. And if you like boots-in-the-speaker hip hop/rap music along with an occasional "smooth operator" boom bap selection, then it’s for you. But if you incline towards contrived “emo” tracks or clumsy Southern bounce knock-offs, you’re at the wrong parade. 1982 is a street hop convention, wherein there's a celebration of two of the rawest and coldest fundamentals of the hip hop/rap music tradition: beats and rhymes. It's also a magnificent lesson in musical balance, as the milder cuts on the album enhance the range and depth of an otherwise hardcore LP.

BeatTips Rating Breakdown

Favorite Joints

"Still Waiting"
This is my absolute favorite joint from 1982. A classic song that actually reminds of me of how eloquently Bruce Springstein and Billy Joel accurately deliver the day-to-day "common man" vibe of a working class "joe" with big dreams. Termanology is at his best here, offering up a confessional rhyme jaunt that leaves you cheering for him and Stat to hit it big.

"I'm still waiting for my day/I'm still waiting to par-lay with hell-a loot/I'm still waiting ti' my moms livin' better, too/shit, cuz my life's still raw/I'm twenty-somethin' years old and I'm still poor."—Termanology

As for the beat, Statik Selektah demonstrates his superb ear for soulful samples and his master-touch chopping. What's especially dope is how Stat handles the track overall. His treatment of the primary sample is precise. Rather than cloud it with a schizophrenic drum framework (something a less skilled beatmaker would most likely have done), he anchors it with a steady kick-snare pattern, while beefing up on the cymbals.

"Life Is What You Make It" ft. Saigon and Freeway
A deceptively simple arrangement that draws you into the rhythmic prisms created by the beat and each rhyme flow. I particularly like this joint because of Saigon's work on it. And the beat for "Life Is What You Make It" is currently my favorite from 1982. Using a three-note bass sample, the beat drags and pulls with one of the illest swing qualities I've heard on a beat in recent years.

"Freedom"
With this song, intellect and social scholarship take center stage. I dig songs that teach and uplift without preaching.

"The World Renown"
This joint is proof positive that beats inspire flow, and the iller the beat, the iller the rhyme—well, at least that's how it is when there's a capable lyricist on the beat. Fortunately, Termanology proves to be more than capable here. Term uses "The World Renown," the first cut of the album, to announce that he's entered a new lyrical zone of complexity, flow, and stylistic machismo.

As far as the beat, once again, Statik Selektah shows off master art-craftsmanship. The beat simmers. At the center is a soul-jazz fusion sample that's surgically chopped (one of Stat's best traits), but not over-extended the way many "auto-choppers" of today like to often do. And the drum framework is a silhouette of smoothness. Each individual element is tucked well, with the bongo punch of the snare and the casual lift of the kick grounding the whole beat in a soul lounge essence.

"People Are Running"
This joint is bare-bones creativity at its finest! On some other-world storytelling shit, Term comes off with deftly penned imagery, offering up an apocalyptic view of what amounts to be the hood through a Matrix lens. And Stat anchors the vocals with an eerie and deceptively simple beat. "People Are Running" features a kick-snare pattern that's steady yet remarkably chaotic, seemingly ready to break fool at any moment. And the 8th-bar mark drum roll is nasty, proving that Statik Selektah is most at home when he explores what he can create with his custom drum sounds. "People Are Running" is hauntingly fresh hip hop/rap music, and fortunately, like most of the cuts on 1982 it's not encumbered by a useless hook.

"You Should Go Home (for breakdown, see Sureshot Singles below)

Sureshot Single(s)

"You Should Go Home" ft. Bun
Dig it, most so-called "for-the-ladies" contraptions usually lean towards the superficial "baby-I-need-you" schlock. But this isn't the case with "You Should Go Home." Here, Statik creates a beat that cooks and bangs just as much as it conjures up that obvious "R&B" feel. The rumbling bongo pattern, flanked by snare brushes "on the 2's," both sub-frameworks shrouded by a tempered hi-hat scheme: genius! The entire measure of the song shuffles with a swing quality often only found with a great traditional live drummer. "You Should Go Home" wonderfully displays Statik Selektah's range as a beatmaker/producer.

Also, the rhymes that grace "You Should Go Home" are not the typical "R&B" filler, either. Termanology proves that he knows how to temper his tone and flow, without sacrificing his subject matter and delivery. And Bun B doesn't just show up making am appearance, on the contrary, he sounds comfortable and confident, completely at home with the tapestry and scope of the beat.

Finally, I'm compelled to point out that ordinarily, I dislike hearing an "R&B" type joint on a hardcore album, but 1982 is no ordinary album, and "You Should Go Home" isn't your average hip hop/rap-"R&B" hybrid—it's both magnetic and catchy. In fact, I anticipate that "You Should Go Home" is going to pick up heavy radio traction.

Sleeper Cuts

"Wedding Bells" ft. Jared Evan
"Wedding Bells" puts you in the mind frame of Color Me Bad's "I Wanna Sex You Up," one of the hardest hip hop/rap influenced joints of all time. But while "Sex You Up" features the sappy sing-pleading of a 90s urban boy band, Termanolgy's dead pan rhymes about a guy with "conflicting" thoughts on marriage makes "Wedding Bells" glide into a whole new zone.

On the surface, "Wedding Bells" is light and humorous, as Term rhymes, "I might bring you a rose/but then I'm stripping ya close/wanted the kid to propose/sorry I'm dippin', I'm gost." Then there's Jared Evan on the chorus singing (masterfully), "She's hearing wedding bells." But listen beneath the surface and you'll hear how seriously Statik Selektah has approached this whole "new jack swing" aesthetic. The sound simply doesn't feel like 2010. Instead, it carries the good vibe nuance of the "new jack swing" sound of the early 1990s. Some might think Stat and Term were taking a chance with this joint, considering how much of 1982 is hardcore. But I beg to differ. "Wedding Bells" isn't only a refreshing change of pace, it's a great example of music makers exploring (and committing to) a variety of their musical interests and influences.

Perhaps on any other Stat and Term album, "Wedding Bells" would stand out as the cold-handed hip hop/rap, R&B-tinged joint. But "You Should Go Home" so powerfully commands that slot that "Wedding Bells" may be slightly overlooked by some. It's a shame, though, because "Wedding Bells" has an entirely different feel and scope than "You Should Go Home." Moreover, "Wedding Bells" has a special power: if you listen closely it will beam you back to 1991.

"Thugaton 2010"
"Thugaton 2010" is stick-up kid background music. Eight bars of it will have you amped up and ready to go rob somebody, even if your name is Becky and you're from Long Island. What's more, "Thugaton 2010" features M.O.P. on a slower tempo beat, a rarity for sure, as most M.O.P. features are usually up-tempo, high octane affairs. Indeed, the beat for "Thugathon 2010" is a deceptively subdued masterpiece. Brilliant, Stat!

Gripes
Absolutely none!

Final Analysis

1982 is an impressive collection of high-grade quality hip hop/rap music.
In addition to the standard fare of male hip hop/rap bravado, this album contains songs with a variety of topics. "Wedding Bells," one of two joints certain to appeal to the ladies, is a cleverly made tune about mis-perceived relationships. "The Hood Is On Fire" and "People Are Running" eloquently describe the perilous and claustrophobic nature of life in the ghetto. "Still Waiting" vividly captures the anxieties of an artist dealing with everyday life while trying hard to make it in the face of uncertain success. "You Should Go Home" is a monster of a mainstream hit that bangs and stays fresh after frequent repeat listens. "Freedom" is a sobering scholarly effort and uplifting anthem that makes you reflect on the social obstacles that face people of color. "World Renown" and "Life Is What You Make It" are songs that aggressively celebrate quality complex lyricism... 1982 is loaded!

While I dig the fact that each song on 1982 executes its aim, what I appreciate more is the fact that there are no gaps in focus or any haphazard attempts at styles and sounds that do not favor the duo or their featured guests. Instead, Statik Selektah and Termanology navigate their collective influences in a manner that registers well with the overall ambition of the album, which I gather was to simply offer the most sincere representation of the pair's skills and genuine interests. In fact, Stat & Term openly embrace their influences. Which doesn't mean that they try to be or even mimic their stated inspiration. Instead, they orchestrate the best of themselves—influential references and all. Thus, any direct comparisons of 1982 to any album by Gang Starr or Pete Rock & CL Smooth (both duos explicitly mentioned in 1982's intro) misses the point and scope of 1982, entirely.

And while Statik Selektah's beats continued to demonstrate why he has quickly risen to the 1st tier of today's beatmakers/producers, I was pleasantly surprised by Termanology's rhymes. On past efforts, I found Termanology's rhyming to be average at best. But his lyrical command on 1982 has forced me to recognize him as a solid lyricist, one with serious depth and much poetic imagination.

Why Statik Selektah and Termanology's 1982 Is Undoubtedly a Classic

Overall, what makes an album a classic? Illmatic, perhaps my most favorite hip hop/rap album of all time, was a collection of abrasive street cuts; it contained no so-called "radio friendly" joints or any "for-the-ladies" selections. And despite what some might want to say otherwise, by 1994, the year Illmatic was released, the radio was already on the road to the "top 8 at 8" pop induced format that it is now. Thus, one of the things that makes Illmatic a classic to many is it's defiantly hardcore street stance. And what about Dr. Dre's The Chronic? Another classic, and another one of my favorites. But unlike Illmatic—an album who's track listing I know verbatim—, I honestly struggle to name any song off of The Chronic beyond "Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang" and "Let Me Ride." Then there's 50 Cent's Get Rich or Die Tryin', an album that MANY hip hop/rap music journalists failed to initially dub a classic, despite it's obvious appeal both under— and above ground.

Even a superficial listen of the three aforementioned classic albums by Nas, Dr. Dre, and 50 Cent, respectively, tells you that there is no exact science to coming up with a "classic." But if there's a quality that all three albums share, it's their defiantly personal nature, flying in the face of conformity. Statik Selektah & Termanlogy's 1982 shares this same quality (as does The Left's Gas Face; BeatTips.com's review coming next week). At a time where many (if not most hip hop/rap acts) are scrambling to conform—and in many cases, scrambling to openly bite (carbon copy) the sound of their more "successful" contemporaries—, Statik and Term opted for a different, but well-established course.

For 1982, Statik Selektah and Termanology combined to formulate an album that was at times, intellectually interesting and socially engaging; and at all times, musically rewarding. And they did it all using the guide set forth by a number of hip hop/rap's important stalwarts, most notably Gang Starr and Pete Rock & CL Smooth. What's more impressive, however, is the fact that Stat & Term deliver a classic using their own ingenuity: They stand defiantly on their own apparatus of honest music making.

As such, 1982 is an album full of hip hop/rap's best aesthetics. The intentional absence of useless hooks are welcome. The range and high quality nature of the beats are inviting; from beat to beat there are sharp examples of the beatmaking tradition's most fundamental characteristics. Termanology's successful reach for the upper tiers of lyricism are encouraging. The mesh of high profile features is impressive and well-used. Even the song arrangement of the LP (a subtle but important variable in a good album's equation) should be applauded. Thus, 1982 is not only aesthetically pleasing, it's an album worthy of serious MusicStudy.

I’ve long maintained that one of the best “self-preserving” qualities of the hip hop/rap music tradition is its self-defiant nature. Hip hop/rap music is no longer a surprise guest at the big ball. It has arrived by every metric that you can imagine, and now it permeates sharply through American culture as well as major cities around the globe. Moreover, hip hop/rap has gained widespread acceptance as both a formidable entertainment sub-industry and as a serious academic discipline. But despite hip hop/rap’s ascent into the mainstream as well as the upper crusts of society and even high art circles, in its fundamental essence, hip hop/rap still speaks loudest to the “common classes”. That Statik Selektah & Termanology have a strong grasp of this component of hip hop/rap is what makes 1982 so engaging, encouraging, and of course, refreshingly enjoyable. Classic work.
—Sa'id


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