3.) Doomtree – No Kings
Is there any album better positioned for the time of Occupy Wall Street than Doomtree’s fantastic No Kings? As an album, the consistent message is that we have no kings above us; a message of equality. This is played out in so many ways throughout the album, in lyrics so packed with meaning that it’d take you dozens of listens to situate everything. That’s one thing you know you’re getting with Doomtree: literary lyrics that matter, from the social consciousness of Sims and P.O.S. to the personal memoir content of Dessa and Cecil Otter, to the language poetry of Mike Mictlan (that is so good that I’m pretty sure I could just send off his verses to literary journals under an assumed name and get them published). The whole group is on-point here, and the cool thing is that they each understand the role of their voices and flows in the context of a group album. So while Sims is very wordy and mid-paced on his solo album, on Ni Kings he strictly uses his slow flow so as not to overlap with P.O.S.’ range. Mictlan brings the high energy, Cecil Otter calms things down, and Dessa fills out the melodies.
But more impressive than the verses are the beats. Even the beat making was a true crew affair. Doomtree has two full-time producers, Lazerbeak and Paper Tiger, who each have their own unique sound. But P.O.S. and Cecil Otter make beats too. And all four lend ideas to every single song (though you can tell if you’re familiar with each producer who is taking the lead on which song). The beats are ever shifting and surprising as a result. Take the track “Own Yours” for instance. It’s an exhilarating listen because you truly can’t guess where the beat is going to go next; you’re forced to submit and go along for the wild ride. The most forward-thinking beats on the album are spearheaded by Cecil Otter, who has become fond of old, old synthesizers that make noises like you’d hear on an old episode of PBS’ Nova or something. “The Grand Experiment” and “Beacon” feature this sound, and these tracks are so, so different from anything Doomtree has done before. Other tracks surprise in their own ways: “Bolt Cutter” uses honest-to-God dubstep in a rap beat, while “Little Mercy” and “Team The Best Team” feel like classic Doomtree in key spots in the album. Perhaps the only reason I’m not putting this astounding album #1 is because of the song “Gimmie the Go” which is not only the weakest song on the album by far but is sequenced in a spot where it undoes all the momentum that “Team The Best Team” creates going into the finale of the album. “Own Yours” recaptures the momentum, but it’d be perfect if “Gimmie the Go” were cut from the album. The final track, “Fresh New Trash,” makes me so happy. When I was officially voted in as the new Nonfiction Editor for Black Warrior Review, this was the song I wanted to play first. This track is a celebration for Doomtree of all they’ve been through as a crew and where they’ve gotten to. Dessa’s verse is among my favorite in all of rap music this year, and Mictlan delivers an anthemic closing note to what is, except for one weak track, an incredible album and collaborative effort.
Originally Posted by Delano
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