Some say this decade has so far belonged to the South, once again however the Midwest is being underestimated. Every year the lists have been filled with everyone from Chicago’s Common and Kanye to Detroit’s Eminem and Jay Dee or Minneapolis’ Atmosphere and Brother Ali. One Be Lo is yet another Midwest who’s been solid for years and yet chronically underappreciated.
In 2000, One Be Lo, along with Senim Silla, released Masters of the Universe as Binary Star. Arguably an underground classic this was the only full album they released. As One Be Lo struck out on his own he put out his solo release Project F.E.T.U.S. in 2002 and dropped S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M. in 2005. He’s back after what’s been far too long with The R.E.B.I.R.T.H. and has also reunited with Senim Silla.
The album is cohesive at only 12 tracks, cutting the filler, making it pure focus. It’s 10 less tracks than his sophomore effort, but it’s a solid straight listen. It kicks off with a great title track that is fire for 3 solid minutes. Mixed with kung fu film samples like a Wu-Tang track, it also has a solid East Coast bounce that makes head nodding downright mandatory. “Born and Raised” is a solid track with a little soul loop that recalls his life growing up in Pontiac, Michigan. “Keep It Rollin’” is one of the albums few missteps, as the track has a soul sample that’s being sung over by guest Marvin Scruggs, while digital effects persist in the background and drums move the track along. It’s not bad, but it just turns out to be too much at once and detracts from the momentum of the album.
When he gets to “Headlines”, he drops a political song that’s not just about Bush, but the world at large. One Be Lo sums up the entire Iraq effort in just a few lines dropping “He said they technology and they got democracy but oilocracy is chaos monopoly robbery mockery hippocracy debauchery.” Moving through the middle of the album One Be Lo continues to drop solid rhymes over competent production, even if it doesn’t match some of the Trackezoids creativity on his previous album, it does manage to be a little more upbeat which with One Be Lo’s steady delivery is a good thing.
Normally when you get to the end of albums it seems like a lot of times some tracks are buried at the back ends in the hopes that they won’t be noticed as much. But The R.E.B.I.R.T.H. closes the album out with three of its best. “The G Gap” is a laid back track, but it has hard hitting drums and a other worldly feel, from what sounds like a bubbling pond of lasers. Meanwhile, “The Gray” has a smooth sax loop, meshed with cool background vocals, giving it a vibe similar to Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth’s “Mecca and the Soul Brother”. Closing it out is “Hip Hop Heaven”, as One Be Lo details his passion over making music. This is a song that will resonate with anyone; whether your hobby is hip hop or cooking.
For One Be Lo it’s about the music, this man is dedicated and here’s hoping another in the Midwest will get his due. – Dane Johnson
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