Crownsdown (10.09, anticon)
For: Subtle, Boom Bip, Cannibal Ox
Byline: Guess who's Back? Jeffrey 'Jel' Logan and Adam 'Doseone' Drucker erect a teetering monument to fallen hip-hop heroes.
Both Jel and Doseone are elder statesmen in the world of left-field/avante-garde hip-hop, and this being their 10 year anniversary, the duo known as themselves pen a fitting and nostalgic look back at the artform that some claim the anticon imprint saved or ruined for the whole world. Not considering myself a hip-hop purist, I have always been thrilled by Themselves experimental tendencies. Doseone's hyper-kinetic, polyrhythmic, totally cryptic, nasally raps and Jel's genre-mashing soundscapes that lets tracks wander instead of jumping down your throat. With Crownsdown I am not saying the script has been flipped, but there are certainly more indicators that point this album back to hip-hop's golden age than to the blurry line of I-have-no-idea-what-to-call-this anticon artistry. Stylistic nods abound, from the yes-ya'lls of Rakim to the aggressive braggadocio of Wu-Tang Clan to the already nostalgic nod of Dax Pierson's auto-tuned voice on "You Ain't it". Drucker's takes on a million different characters at once, from his multi-layered high nasal free association sing-song melodies to the snarling M.C who throws down threats, come ons, and bewildering non-sequiturs. There is a legion of voices and personas within Drucker's stage-personna, each taking equal turns at bat.These delightful discoveries of hip-hop evolution are not hidden in the details like in albums past, instead these self-evident head nods slap you right in the face.
The "guess who's backs?" concede to Themselves sounding like a newly minted Themselves about halfway through the record with the introduction of one of 2009's best singles "Daxstrong". I don't think I have ever heard Doseone rap with so much speed and sincerity, after mentioning "15 passenger vans" and rolling over on "black ice", the exact accident that paralyzed Subtle member and sometimes Themselves collaborator Dax Pierson. From this point on the track takes a somber, elegiac turn that is light years away from the jump-off. This move flies completely under the radar thanks to Jel's virtuoso programming. Bump this in your car as you do donuts in the mall parking lot, or on a roadtrip where your fears of mortality consume you as you wonder if that is black ice or asphalt underneath your tires. Either way, Crownsdown is 2009's strongest and most effecting hip-hop release. It only took 10 years in the making.
Oh, P.S You can download their mixtape, FREEhoudini, for FREE.