featured REVIEW


Mr Lif I Phantom Def Jux • 2002

Mr Lif’s first full length on Def Jux is one of the many highlights that is and is going to be released on El-P’s label. The album is blessed with the skills of top producers Edan, Fakts One, Insight and of course El-P. They were able to create a mellow, futuristic but yet groovy sound throughout the whole album. Yet, every one of them added their own sound to the music: Edan’s old school elements, Fakts’ funk breaks and soul samples, Insight’s rattling, electro, technological style and El-P’s deep, dark sound.

Mr Lif’s straightforward flow and sarcastic humour matches the beats perfect creating a very special existential vibe. The first track 'A Glimpse at the Struggle' is a great example of the chemistry between lyrics and beats. Mr Lif’s rhymes are stuck on the up-tempo heavy beat like glue. 'Return of the B-Boy' could be a track on the Cannibal Ox album having that same melancholic atmosphere. In 'New Man Theme' Boston native Mr Lif revolts against capitalism 'a cool bro soon to be the Boston Strangler' over a Fakts One production consisting of different beats sounding really funky. Another track who interrupts the overall dark sound is 'Status' with a thumping electro sample and Insight joining Mr Lif, talking about the time they sneaked into the clubs because of being broke (a theme that returns time after time in the album). This track can easily be played on an underground party. The party atmosphere is suddenly interrupted by the next track 'Success', a threatening beat with a mourning violin sample and Aesop Rock sounding darker as ever. In the same line lays 'Post Morteum', with synthesizers and again a violin, Mr Lif rhymes incredible together with fellow Boston mc Akrobatik, El-P and Jean Grae. 'Daddy Dearest' has one of the most uplifting beats ever made by El-P, in contrast to the cynical, dark lyrics by Lif. The same contrast as in 'New Man Theme', analysing society’s problems in a sharp and fierce way.

This album is a piece of excellent music consisting of dark vibes, cynicism but also uplifting funk break hip-hop. Any negative elements are the length of the album (only 40 minutes of enjoyment) and the fact that Vast Aire didn’t drop any rhymes. But hell, this album is one of the tightest of the 21st century and probably beyond.

POSTED ON 03|29|2004 by cpf

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