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by
11 October, 2004@12:00 am
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      There is good news and bad news for Robust following the release of his sophomore album, “Potholes In Our Molecules.” The good news is that even Eminem’s early work (see “Infinite”) was sloppy, misguided, poor in sound quality, and, to put it simply, not very good. The bad news is that, well, Robust’s “Potholes” is just as sloppy and misguided with even worse sound quality to match. Eminem is usually not a bad rapper to emulate; in Robust’s case, he turns out to be the worst-case scenario.

      For the Chicago-bred Robust, a product of the recently sweltering Chi-Town underground scene, “Potholes in Our Molecules” begins as a showcase for the weird but interesting free-spirited emcee before quickly diluting itself into a series of potholes interrupting a long journey through roads of questionable production practices and long frivolous instrumental tracks that belong outside of the Robust platform. Of the eighteen tracks on “Potholes,” 5 feature exclusively instrumental tracks (with 3 of these coming from Meaty Ogre). Instead of adding anything to the album, the producers on these tracks (including the up-and-coming Maker) save their best efforts for their solo tracks leaving Robust stuck with the recycled production for his vocals.

      To his credit, Robust works with what he’s given, as the slow percussioned-out and monotone vocal sample on “Beats Me” leads Robust to rap, “It’s like I’m sitting in a box inside of a bigger box, Built of cinderblocks interlocked with mortar, Sometimes I like to hide in it, I’m probably gonna die in it, For now I live in it and keep thinking outside of it.” His lazy-but-right-on flow over the beat grabs attention, even if his sometimes-odd subject matter fails to hold it.  Other tracks like “Yesterday’s Fossil” (produced by Dreas) implement a hungry amped-up Robust who makes listeners forget that the sound quality is so bad, as he screams raps through the microphone and in between slow out-of-place 1950s-sounding R&B samples. And “Deflated Egos,” a hidden track, finally views Robust in his battle stance and at his best with both the production and lyrical efforts cooperating instead of coexisting on the same track.

      The remainder of the album mostly features Robust playing cat-and-mouse with the oddest topics he can find as he chases the gloomy production of Prolyphic on darkened tracks “Closed Caption Contraption” and “Pessimist Recipe.” “Artificially Bittersweet,” which features three different beats within one song sounds like an interesting concept until the pauses between each throw the flow of Robust entirely off and leave him mashing nonsense together to compensate. The sing-songy feel of “Just Add Dust” also fails to fit in with Robust’s unique flow that should instead be thrown over something quicker and more upbeat to see him at his best.

     Too often, “Potholes in Our Molecules” transforms “good enough” efforts from Robust and sub-par production into a wobbly experiment that sounds as if Robust himself should be the guest on the track of a producer. His effortless and natural flow over beats is tampered with on tracks that feature unimpressive production, but not all the blame falls on the production team of “Potholes,” as Robust does stretch his material a little too broadly as his topics are usually non-existent and rely around a random assortment of thoughts. As far as Robust’s potential, infinite comes to mind. However, on record, he’s also not that far beyond another “Infinite” that once had all the potential in the world without yet having anything to show for it…..

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