Detroit hip-hop group, The Left was formed after a simple phone conversation between producer Apollo Brown and emcee Journalist 103. The group’s LP Gas Mask initially started as a few random songs, but turned in a full-length, 17 track opus. Talks about humble beginnings. The Left debuted on “The Real Detroit” off of Apollo Brown’s fantastic debut full length, The Reset, which found Apollo bringing us a collection of hard drums and dirty samples while delivering a top notch hip-hop LP. Will The Left’s Gas Mask do the same?
The answer is a firm yeah, “duke”. Gas Mask is a well crafted, well produced, well emcee-ed and well packaged album. While 17 tracks seem heavy,Gas Mask moves through effortlessly, almost ending too soon. In a short time, Apollo Brown has managed to create a sound all his own, crafting one soulful, neck-snapping after another. Journalist 103 more than holds his weight and the duo’s chemistry is evident from track to track.
Gas Mask begins with “Change”, a haunting track that sets the stage and sets the tone for what’s to come. Journalist 103 speaks from the heart on the title track “Gas Mask”, musing about dealing with the current state of hip-hop. The duo’s chemistry is especially evident on this track, as the producer and emcee seem to fit like a glove.
Gas Mask is one of those albums that provides sonic imagery, providing a picture as the listener moves from track to track. The haunting backdrops produce a picture of the gray-skied, gritty landscape of Detroit, Michigan. The group reps their town hard, enlisting Motown cohorts Paradime on “Chokehold”, Guilty Simpson on “Reporting Live” and Marvwon on the previously released “Real Detroit”, which in this case features new production and a new sound. All three fit to a tee with the re-done “Real Detroit” producing magic.
Apollo Brown’s production is especially strong on tracks such as “Battle Axe”, “How We Live”, “The Melody”, “Caged Birds” and “Homage”. As Gas Mask ends with “Get In Where You Fit It”, it goes out on a high note, riding out instrumental style, leaving the listener with something to chew on.
Coming out of Leftfield, Gas Mask is one of the pleasant surprises of the year. Apollo Brown and Journalist 103 craft a strong, no frills, no filler hip-hop album that hip-hop fans of clamor for and they did it almost off the radar.
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