Seasoned professionals in the world of Hip Hop, the Brooklyn duo of rapper M.I. and producer DJ Cutt, prove themselves very much at the top of their game on new album ‘Avant Garde’.
The album is a masterly offering, seamlessly combining effortlessness with energy. The duo are keen to stress the influence of the Golden Era of Hip Hop, at the same time switching things up with experimental production that lives up to the album’s title.
‘It ain’t hard, it’s the Avant Garde’, M.I. drawls on the opening track, his measured, suave delivery setting the laid-back standard for the rest of the album. His flow is sophisticated but relaxed as he boasts of his lyrical mastery. The lyrics tread traditional Hip Hop territory, with M.I. reppin' his own skills and underlining his status as an MC. Refreshingly, his delivery is remarkably relaxed and un-aggressive. His lines are as smooth as oil; ‘with the motion of the ocean we coasting/ Put records on like lotion,’ he raps on ‘Avant Garde’.
There are some smoothly-handled narrative tracks too – ‘Which One’ candidly details an infatuation with a woman who turns out to be a stripper. ‘M’s 4 Milleniums’ is a lyrical tour de force of complex images, internal rhyme and wordplay; ‘maintain, mainline, never mundane’, M.I. raps. And it’s clear that M.I. is keen to stress the veteran status of Constant Deviants and SIX2SIX Records in the world of Hip Hop: ‘On the grind SIX2SIX for years now/ Look around, all your friends that was down still round,’ he spits on ‘The Right Moment.’
DJ Cutt’s production provides us with a range of rich and intriguing soundscapes, at the same time firmly rooting the album in Hip Hop’s Golden Era. The title track ripples with orchestral synth echoes, whilst ‘Standards’ is littered with hypnotic xylophonic loops. ‘I’m Still Up’ combines delicate harp loops with dark stabs of synth.
In places, beats and samples nod to funk, jazz and soul, giving tracks like ‘It’s Like That’ a distinctly vintage feel. Cutt showcases his polished turntable skills on tracks like ‘End All Be All’ and stand-out production masterpiece, ‘Machine Gun’, with plenty of skilful scratching adding to Constant Deviants’ Golden Era appeal. Despite varied sounds, the album maintains a strong identity through its production, with Cutt maintaining a series of steady, chilled-out sounding beats throughout, allowing the album to unfold at a leisurely pace.
Constant Deviants have really come up with a trump card here – an album that feels both chilled and easeful, whilst still packing an old school Hip Hop punch. ‘Avant Garde’ is an extremely assured drop, crammed full of ingenuity, energy and laid-back style.
~ Fiona Guest SBTV London
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