Sometimes an album can be best summed up by the totality of its parts. Dropping a name list that reads like Oddisee, Apollo Brown, L’Orange, Open Mike Eagle, yU, Quelle Chris, Rapper Big Pooh, Nottz, Ras Kass, Tall Black Guy, Phonte, Kool Keith, Exile, I Ced, Gift of Gab, Bilal Salaam, Blockhead, Masta Ace, Oh No, and Red Pill has a wow factor that most heads might not think would be possible if it were not for the uniting power of Mello Music Group. We are obvious fans and shameless supporters of the label’s efforts as an independent entity, but the included artist’s individualized strength stack in a previously uncharted way for these 16 tracks impressively put together completely is house.
The brilliance of subject matter selection gave everyone on the album the utility to keep their carved out identity in check. Yet the vision of the project being cohesive seamlessly manifests into melding a sound that not only sets a benchmark for Mello Music Group’s progress, but also continues a historical tradition of energized independent labels pushing the envelope.
Hot topics are addressed with Phonte and Oddisee’s scorn of American racism on “Requiem,” Open Mike Eagle’s “Celebrity Reduction Prayer” striking down celebrity obsession, and Ras Kass going in on society ills over Apollo Brown’s beat for “PNT.” Yet there is also a beautiful juxtaposition to necessary finger pointing on Kool Keith’s stream of conscious lyrical barrage with the assist of L’Orange’s sample loop wizardry for “Sometimes I Feel.”
Judging best of rap or production on the project is as pointless as it is fruitless. Masta Ace’s laid back cadence on the hook for “Troubles” is butter smooth and comforting, while Oddisee’s multi-syllable delivery within the parameters of “Word To The Wise” is just another example of his ability to teleport between keen producer and clever lyricist.
The bonus appearance of Gift of Gab from Blackalicious on “Circles Around Circles” pushes L’Orange into some truly old school feels that connect well with scratching from Killer Mike/Run The Jewels touring member Trackstar the DJ, and the newly signed Red Pill continues to flex his affinity for songcraft with Blockhead on “Darlin’.”
This is more than a compilation. It’s a statement. A testament to the collective energy, but more importantly to the integrity of dodging industry temptation for the arduous road of remaining independent. Roll up and let your ears bare witness to this extremely focused, well executed set of hip-hop tracks that reflect the minds that make up this noteworthy label and its stable of talent.