Amidst the bevy of over promoted and under produced material that we’re now forced fed by terrestrial radio, lies a whole community of independent labels, itching for the chance to show that pure Hip Hop still lives in the hearts of their artists. No matter how much you fine tune your opinion to fall in line with the ever-so-popular catch phrase “Hip Hop is evolving”, one can’t help but notice how “formula” based music has taken over. Standardized BPMs, repetitive choices of instruments, and even similar style of flow make up what, to some, symbolizes the end of Hip Hop as we know it. BUT, before you cast away your culture card and settle in for the ride with this new breed of rap, take a listen to what Mello Music Group is doing on their new album Persona.
Since its inception, MMG has flown under the mainstream radar, but the steadfast connoisseurs of raw organic Hip Hop have been aware of what they’ve been doing for about eight years now. With a healthy stream of quality releases, MMG has evolved into more than just your average underground Hip Hop label and it seems as though they are primed to hit the industry hard in 2015 with a host of dope emcees and production that borders on the criminal in comparison to the competition.
Setting the album off is Requiem which features D.C.’s own Oddisee and former Little Brother member and current front man of The Foreign Exchange, Phonte. Production-Wise, Requiem is the perfect tone setter. A hypnotizing piano and infectious percussion, reminiscent of a military march theme makes up what some may call “militant boom bap” as it evokes head nods and draws interest in what Tiggalo and Oddisee are set to spit. No arguments from me on that front. Both veterans eloquently address the race issues of America and it couldn’t have come at a better time when you consider how the indications of racial divide are now at the forefront of today’s media coverage.
Homicide, featuring yU and Va super producer Nottz, is a modern day tale of “guy meets girl, but girl’s got a man”. Not to spoil it for those who may not have listened as of yet, but let’s just say that it turns out ugly and we can only wonder what the impending events may bring as yU leaves an open ended story for us to complete while we ride out to Nottz’ signature thump and yet another classic sample dug up by the DMP frontman.
In listening to this album, you may gather that MMG decided to tackle the subject of political/social awareness, as it surfaces and subsides throughout the album. Cuts such as PNT featuring West Coast legend Rass Kass is definitely one of the stand outs that further establishes this theme. Produced by MMG beatsmith Apollo Brown, PNT might just stir up some attention from the Right Wingers, Fox News, and the Obama administration considering Rass isn’t pulling any punches on this one.
Other stand outs on the album include Celebrity Reduction Prayer featuring Open Mike Eagle, who does a stellar job in breaking down how we’re so quick to crown celebrities as kings and queens, while forgetting to recognize their mortality. Over Oddisee’s swooning jazz piano track, he’s deliberate in delivering the message to the stars that they’re no better than us, so don’t get comfortable on top.
The Run featuring Red Pill is perfectly placed as Oh No lays down a melodious track that sparks a serious head not and grit, all while Pill speaks life into it as the perfect complement. Oddissee’s Word To The Wise, in my opinion, is one of the most profound songs on the album. It’s an impressive self-examination personified in the form of a verbal resume that speaks to the unenlightened. Well done Odd!
If you’re still questioning how deep this album is with talented, established artists, pay close attention to Troubles featuring Juice Crew vet Masta Ace. Teaming up with Apollo Brown on production, Ace shows and proves why he’s still relevant after well over twenty years in the game. Newly signed to Mello Music Group and ready to give more and more darts for your consumption is Va’s own Rapper Big Pooh, who’s been providing nothing but heat as of late. No Future, produced by Apollo Brown confirms once again that the Rapper Big Pooh post Little Brother era is alive and prospering and I’m sure those former critics who doubted this man during the early years are now staunch fans of his. Be sure to check out his newly released project on MMG as well, Words Paint Pictures produced entirely by Apollo Brown as well.
It would be fairly easy to go down the line song for song, beat for beat, in an attempt to persuade you to pick up Persona, but when it comes to this compilation it’s better to live by the newly popularized adage, “show you better than I can tell you”. I’m postulating here, but it’s safe to say that these brothers would rather you become a consumer of this great music, rather than listen to me go on about how dope it is. Find your way to their site and pick it up for yourself. Disappointment is not an option.