The Athletic Mic League are a sprawling Michigan crew consisting of 7 MCs (14KT, Buff1, Grand Cee, Haircut, Sonny Star, Texture and Vital Signs) backed by production clique the Lab Technicians (CliffNotes, D.Techtive, Forecast and V-Tech). With this many contributors, there’s a risk that any joint undertaking might result in an incohesive mess (say, the Wu now as opposed to the Wu of 36 Chambers), yet the MCs vibe well together and the producers are obviously on the same wavelength as the album’s tracks all fit into a smooth whole.
Unfortunately this unity is not spearheaded by any stand-out personalities behind the microphone, and whilst nobody is bad the performances are usually reasonable without being particularly meaningful, insightful or amusing. Whilst there are moments of impressive skill display (rolling multisyllabic flows unfolding with rapid precision on “Birth Control”), these are balanced out by a lack of memorable voices or quotables, and the occasional inept line (“We can have your club looking like 9/11 right now”… ouch).
The production is of good quality throughout, coming off like a meeting of Fat Jon’s jazzy smoothness and musicality with the chunky jeep beats and bass of Jay Dee (the latter best displayed on “Heavy Medal”). However, whilst the beats themselves impact nicely in your chest, they’re kept too loose, which along with the reasonably slow and spacious feel of the backing tracks means that nothing ever builds up enough steam to really bang hard. The grin-inducing vibes and lyrics of “Team Player 2″ aside, there also seem to be problems bringing the two sides of the crew together: the tales of rape and murder on “Heartless” sound bizarre against its slowdance backdrop and Jon Lucien sample, and whilst the MCs do double-time rapping well at the beginning of the record, they fail to do so against the rougher, faster live instrumentation of closer “The Rip”, and consequently sound slow and out of place – not ripping it at all.
This isn’t a bad album, but the Athletic Mic League are going to have to put a lot more training and focus into their game if they want to attract fans from outside their home state.
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