Cakemasters in full effect
If I had to name five hip-hop albums that have a dedicated following in the proper circles, yet are underground enough to remain criminally slept-on, 2004’s Connected by The Foreign Exchange would be near the top of that short list.
That album was groundbreaking not only because of North Kakalak native Phonte’s very capable flow and gut-busting-yet-always-candid lyrics, but mainly because of Netherlands expatriate Nicolay’s groundbreaking, highly atmospheric, keyboard-driven production. It’s one of those rare contemporary rap albums that captivates both vocally and musically and pretty much holds onto you through every track. Everyone needs to hear it before they pound dirt.
Connected’s follow-up has been as about as long-awaited as the Second Coming of Jesucristo. But I’m not quite sure we were waiting for…this. After my first listen-through of Leave It All Behind, three questions came to mind: 1) Who, or what, deluded Phonte into thinking his singing could carry a whole damn album; 2) How can he not realize this will probably further drive a descent of quality that started when 9th Wonder left Little Brother; and 3) Do I still have that bottle of cyanide in my medicine cabinet?
Nicolay is still the truth, and he definitely comes correct with the album’s often melancholy production. Only problem is, I’d rather hear the album’s instrumentals more often than not. Phonte-as-singer and the Justus League’s crooning elite have always worked best in minimal doses, peppered across a track or three of any given project. But when I heard a few weeks ago that ‘Tay literally raps about three verses on this entire album, my stomach started to ache...on that "oh shit...here we go" tip.
If it were a double album with discs dedicated each to R&B and rapping, or even if they announced there would be a lyrics-driven album coming shortly after, I would be more forgiving of Leave It All Behind. But fact of the matter is, I’ll probably be listening to this joint about 90 percent for Nic’s production, and I’m not sure how far even that’ll get me.
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