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 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
The Perceptionists
Black Dialogue
Def Jux

Rating: 9/10 ?


April 8, 2005
Who are some of the better MC duos you can think of? Plug One and Plug Two? Q-Tip and Phife? Ruck and Rock? Tek and Steele? Add Akrobatik and Mr. Lif to the short list, who along with DJ Fakts One, have released an album under the moniker The Perceptionists that is easily placing as one of the better hip-hop releases of the first half of this decade.

Lif offers the brains to Ak's heart; his solid and monotonous flow, full of brainiac rhymes, compliments Ak's warm and throaty cadence - a simpler, but just as enticing rhyme style. Their back and forth are the yin and yang of this album, a complete affair that doesn't go on for too long and is chock full of outstanding production: El-P, Fakts One, and relative newcomers Cyrus The Great and Willie Evans Jr. all lace their respective tracks with creamy beats and samples.

Lif and Ak's bent is decidedly political (as evidenced on Lif's solo effort I Phantom, although not so much on Akrobatik's Balance), but they manage also to dip into topics like love and job hunting without damaging the album's continuity. That they can cross themes so easily and never get sappy is true testament to the skill of these two superb MCs.

The record begins a bit shakily with the slightly weak digi-funk party rap of "Let's Move," (produced by Fakts One) but things progress to a rapid gallop from there on. El-P handles the boards on the next two tracks, providing a backdrop of his usual paranoid-schizophrenic sci-fi production, albeit a bit toned down from his own Fantastic Damage. Ak and Lif trade lines deftly over "People 4 Prez," while "Blo" finds the two fast-rapping like Kane and G Rap over slinky acid bass hits and electro drum taps.

One of the most poignant and timely tracks on the album is "Memorial Day," an unmitigated attack on our current administration's unjustified and lie-based war in Iraq. The chorus makes the point clearly: "Where are the weapons of mass destruction?/We've been lookin' for months and we ain't found nothin'/Please, Mr. President, tell us something/We knew from the beginning that your ass was bluffin'." A simple concept played out via simple words, Lif and Ak take an insightful route in this song, putting themselves in the position of the soldiers who have been lied to who are fighting this war and humanizing their so-called enemy at the same time. One can only hope that an aide will slip this into Rumsfeld's car CD player sometime very soon.

Willie Evans Jr., a Florida-based producer, has a light and sentimental touch in his beats, reminiscent at times of some of RJD2's more experimental work. "Love Letter," all pretty guitars and hypnotic vocal sample over skittering snares, finds Lif kicking one of the best, most truthful, and most intimate love-themed verses ever put to tape by an MC. "My intimacy is in my poetry and lurks behind closed doors/And, in my head, I'm fighting my own wars/I feel I got a purpose and a cause, 'cause I lay awake at night/My eyesight seems to be addicted to moonlight." Pure poetry.

Evans' other work is just as good. The title track, dealing with issues of appropriation of black culture and selling out, as well as the final cut, "Sunshine," another beautiful standout dealing with letting go and home that utilizes a dreamy vocal sample, allows Ak and Lif do their thing.

"Frame Rupture," another highlight produced by El-P, uses an EPMD sample from "Manslaughter" as its bedrock, and Lif spits rapid-fire venom in his first verse: "Kreuger maneuver, Hans Gruber Luger/Slide through the guard dog's bowl of Eukenuba/Hoover Dam vs. Ram-Man, Outcome: rapid water, rabid author." Nuts.

The guests don't start showing up until the last third of the record - and who needs them, really, on something this good - but there are some highlights. Guru and Camu Tao guest on "Party Hard," another of the weaker tracks on the record, even though Guru can make even the flimsiest sound that much better. Shock G of Digital Underground lends his laid back sense of humor to "Career Finders," a song that is almost a skit - like a hip-hop "Career Opportunities." The Fakts One produced "5 O'clock" features Phonte of Little Brother on the chorus, and this R&B inflected ode to the working week gives the listener a tangible feeling of the end of the day relaxation we are all so familiar with.

Black Dialogue: a hip-hop classic? Maybe not, but pretty damn close. Lif and Ak are two of the most under-recognized talents of hip-hop today, and hopefully this record will raise their profile among those whose world to hip-hop was opened by the likes of Kanye and Common as well as Dre and Snoop. This is an album that is accessible, angry, futuristic, melodic, and intelligent all at the same time, a rare occurrence in any genre.

Reviewed by Jonah Flicker
Jonah Flicker writes, lives, drinks, eats, and consumes music in New York, via Los Angeles. He once received a fortune in a fortune cookie that stated the following: "Soon, a visitor shall delight you." He's still waiting.

See other reviews by Jonah Flicker

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