The underground has been looking for a dominant musical voice for a while now. Primo has moved on to greener pastures, Pete Rock is spotty with his presence, and 9th Wonder hasn’t really dominated in terms of an overarching sound. Enter Statik Selektah, who has been attached to many boom-bap releases over the last few years.
After years of honing his craft, his latest release, 100 Proof: The Hangover finds Statik staking his claim as the next wunderkind. The results are impressive.
The real power of a producer is not metered in head nods but in the feeling and mood conveyed by their music. Statik creates separation from himself and the “beat makers” immediately. Following the opening soliloquy, the album opens with the rich, weighty “So Close, So Far,” feat Bun B, Wale and Colin Monroe. Well-arranged, multilayered and strong in sentiment. Pace immediately changes with Lil Fame’s furious assault on “Critically Acclaimed.” Saigon and Sean P add equivalent fire over horns, flutes, and a tough drum.
Freeway’s relentless rhyme style is on full display on “Night People.” Masspike Miles and Red Café also flow over the soul sample led, piano tickled track. It keeps the spirit of the album consistent while changing the energy. Smiff N Wessun step up to the plate and slow synth “Follow Me” to death. Melodious malevolence supported on the bottom by staccato guitars. Scowl music accented by ill scratched-in samples.
“Do It To Death” keeps the scowl but speeds the pace up as Lil Fame returns with Havoc and the legendary Kool G Rap. Havoc has seriously improved as a rapper, while G Rap manages to sound current in a way that many of his contemporaries fail to do. Royce Da 5’9 bodybags “Come Around” in a way that relegates relative newcomer Termanology to background music. The track is smooth with an ill bass, a nice horn, and bongo drums over a strong kick drum. Well composed underground rap.
“Drunken Nights” takes us from the hardcore to a slow groovy rhythm with Joe Scudda, J.F.K. and Reks. It’s the first real lull on the album, but is fleeting, with “Life Is Short” featuring Consequence picking the pace up. The high speed sample returns but isn’t overdone. It’s a bit Kanye circa College Dropout in spirit, but not close enough to be a bite. A bit of Primo-ism occurs with a well produced interlude that you wish someone would rap over on the JFK helmed “100 Proof Interlude.” Potent but pointless.
Strong pianos and a dancing drum allow Styles P and Kweli to wax poetic about real Hip-Hop and the need for differing voices in the music on “The Thrill Is Gone.” Biggie is chopped up beautifully and Kweli continues his steamrolling of every track he steps in recently. “Kwe and Styles P we got it covered like ¾.” Nasty. Skyzoo demolishes “Get Out” with killer efficiency, kicking the door open for labelmate Torae to finish the job. The minimalist intro of every stanza builds the drama for the balance of each verse to properly convey.
Statik goes left as in West Coast with Souls of Mischief for the high-energy, driving track “Laughing.” Souls pass the mic back and forth like D and Joey or Erick and Parish and their awareness of each member’s flow is self evident. They stay on the west side with “The Coast,” featuring Evidence, new-comer Fashawn, and Kali. Basic track paced by strings, supported by a drum and pushed on the break by piano. “Fake Love” brings the energy back as Reks, Kali, Termanology, and Good Brother expound on cats that front like they are for you but are really setting you up for a fall. Termanology returns on “Eighty Two.” Statik keeps the song interesting by adding and subtracting certain elements in the body of the song and keeping the beat dynamic. Kali and Novel bring the album to a close with “Walk Away,” a tale of broken love and the difficulty of carrying on with life.
Statik Selektah goes a long way towards pleading his case as a lord of the underground. There are some sequencing issues, particularly the album’s close but his production is informed and possessed of strong rhythm and composition. Overall a very strong project, and done without the normal producer hubris.
3.75 out of 5
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