2 July, 2013@5:09 pm
If you read the description of Apollo Brown, Verbal Kent and Red Pill’s Ugly Heroes project on the Mello Music Group website, you know their definition of “an ‘ugly hero’ is the everyday blue collar individual that makes the world go ’round.” And hey, who doesn’t want to honor those guys? With gratuitous celebrity running rampant, a shift of attention is a breath of fresh air. But if you actually listened to the project you know that it’s anything but refreshing.
Released in late May, Ugly Heroes is fifteen tracks of working-class Midwestern gloom. Still, everything is done right from a technical standpoint. Apollo Brown’s beats are as expected, well-orchestrated yet moody boom bap. Both emcees kick hard knock rhymes that validate the everyday struggle. All that’s missing is the hope.
From the start the experienced Chi-Town native and Michigan bred newbie set the tone of tribulation with “Desperate.” Between Kent’s “I have rope, I could end it all,” and Red Pill’s “everyone I know is feeling downtrodden,” we’re left feeling we don’t know what the fuck we’re supposed to do either. The album doesn’t stray much from this format. Even “Heart and Soul,” an ode to love and the women holding it down through hard times is somber and sonically dreary.
It’s not until the end of the project that the mood lifts a bit. On “Just Relax” Brown crafts an easygoing track that is cheerful compared to the others, while Kent and Pill remind the listener “life’s so hard, just relax.” Bonus track “Ugly;” featuring scratches by DJ Eclipse, is the star of the story, showcasing the emcees’ lyrical dexterity in a way that the album’s theme thwarted.
Verbal Kent and Red Pill have amazing word play, flow variation and are the things great emcees are made of. To boot, Apollo Brown is one of the most consistent producers of the past decade. But Ugly Heroes is more ugly than heroic, more dark than enlightening. Instead of opening a door to the realities of working class life it firmly shuts one, weighing down not only the listener but the artists’ talents as well.
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