16 June, 2012@9:27 am
Producer Statik Selektah has very quickly risen to the top of the underground’s current crop of beat-makers over the last few years. He has not only released a steady stream of projects with several high-profile collaborators, but he’s also maintained a level of quality with each one. When working with the Shade45 resident, rappers know the finished product will be an album with a unified sound, thanks to Statik’s beat selections. This past Spring, Statik collaborated with two longtime homies from around his way, Reks on Straight No Chaser, and Termanology as one-half of the duo 1982, with 2012.
For the work of one producer, the two projects have a distinctively different sound. For Straight No Chaser, Reks chooses a slightly more rugged style as backdrop for his ultra-visual street tales. Reminiscent of AZ, or even Nas, in terms of descriptiveness, Reks offers a classic New York-By-Way-Of-Boston sound with Straight No Chaser. He immediately catches your attention with “Autographs”, a celebratory intro about rap life, built around classic horns and precise cuts. On the flipside, the more grounded in reality “Chasin’” examines the never-ending struggle over brilliantly sampled pianos, while the breathless “730″ finds Reks splashing paint on the canvas, stream of consciousness style.
While Reks doesn’t have the wordplay mastery or intricate deliveries of Termanology, he’s a strong emcee in his own right, and one hell of a sparring partner. Demonstrated on both “Riggs & Murtaugh” (feat. Action Bronson) and “Straight, No Chaser” (feat. Slaine), Reks’ paired down rhyme style works perfectly as he goes line-for-line with his collaborators.
The direction taken on 2012 is different than Straight No Chaser, or what was heard on the duo’s self-titled debut, as Statik takes on a slightly more refined sound this time around. If their first album channeled the Infamous Mobb Deep, then this one is closer to Reasonable Doubt, in terms of polish.
Despite comparisons, everything remains raw, in terms of both lyrics and production. There’s a certain maturity found in both areas, as they have stepped things up with bigger hooks, sung vocals, and conceptual tracks. For instance, “Lights Down” finds Termanology seamlessly blending into the track, using his voice as an instrument, for this heavy head-nodder. Also notable is “Shining”, featuring a crew of friends-at-the-bar singing the hook, or the soulful “Happy Days” with added support from Mac Miller, Bun B, and Shawn Stockman.
Later on “Time Travellin’”, we find an introspective Termanology imagining how he would use a fusion-powered Delorian to change history, while the more grounded tracks like “Hard To Forget” and “Too Long” find him re-examining his childhood with some shocking revelations.
And it’s those brooding undertones that make 2012 such a strong LP, which really comes through being the work of one producer. The album carries a melancholy vibe throughout – as songs like the ridiculously dope “Right Now” and the closing track “Time Ticking” demonstrate. Even when looking to a brighter future on “Everything”, “Live It Up” (feat. Lil Fame) or “Make It Out Alive” (feat. Freddie Gibbs & Crooked I), there’s still a bittersweet feeling to it all.
Once again, Statik Selektah has produced a pair of timeless, classically-driven east coast hip-hop LP’s with Straight No Chaser and 2012. Both albums show growth from their respective emcees, and each have their own distinctive flavors. In an era where albums sound like compilations, Statik, Reks, and Term prove the work of one producer is enough to carry the length of the listen.
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