Up Above Records (April 13, 2010)
Reviewed by Trey Palmisano
LMNO is no newcomer to the hip hop game. The West Coast resident has been around longer than most of his Christian hip hop (pardon the term) cohorts and has a gang of fans. It’s clear he’s built his reputation and following one head at a time. Equally capable is beatsmith Dert who joins him. The two have come together to engineer “Next in Line,” the next installment on LMNO’s prodigious resume that already includes a handful of albums.
With time and experience on your side, expectations will likely be high. Expectations imply the question: “is this artist who has been around for some time still putting out quality material”? That question is surely will receive a subjective answer, depending largely upon who you ask, and what kind of music the reviewer who writes his review was listening prior to popping in your album. Pray he wasn’t listening to someone with a mad flow that shames your own.
But with a clear head, I entered this listening experience as casually and unbiasedly as I try with all my album reviews. Luckily, I and a startlingly few knew nothing about LMNO prior to listening so I expected little. What did I get in return?
For starters, the beat production on this album is just insane. Props to Dert. It was like listening to a DJ Premier venture (I happened to have been listening to a DJ Premier production prior to this one) so the joy of moving from start to finish without the throw-away tracks was an unexpected grace that I was happy to indulge. The satisfaction of hearing scratches, hard breaks, complex beats, invited silver age comparisons. In fact, one entire track is dedicated to the DJ. This was great but it should have also been something of a red flag. Where there is too much focus on the DJ (the song “LD on the Cut” even gives praise to the DJ) and the producer, something is being compensated for. And even as I pressed forward, I knew precisely what that something was even if I was afraid to admit it. And unfortunately, it was LMNO.
From the trite topics to the stale, wooden delivery of his lyrics over gorgeous beats, it was like watching someone throw paint on a Mona Lisa and not being able to do anything about it. Meter is so important. It’s critical. And if you’re not Eminem and a few others that know how to mathematically speed up or slow down their deliveries and still remain mindful of the meter, you should simply stick to easy rhythmic patterns. Watching your beat counts without compressing too many syllables into the meter is something that both a poet and a good lyrics strive for. “Rapping your verses” instead of “talking your verses” also helps.
It always helps to have some songs to support your concerns. So I’ve lined up the following as a sample of the larger problems torturing this project.
“Good Book” boasts a catchy beat. As soon as I heard it, I was wondering how LMNO would flip a topic done by a thousand wannabes. After all, talking about the bible in our sub-genre is like talking about cars, girls, and clothes in secular hip hop. Rather than get a clever story or narrative, LMNO launches into a dry checklist of the books. I don’t think until now I’ve ever heard the word “Chronicles” in someone’s verse. Needless to say, it may have been one of the most disappointing songs in recent memory. I could almost feel Dert clutching his ears or raising his hands to the sky and screaming “What have I done? Why did I sacrifice this beat?”
“In Love” shows more about why this album is all about the production. LMNO’s verses are simply run-ons of the “In Love” hook that keeps wailing continuously throughout the song.
“Innocence,” which offers only a small glimmer of hope was again plagued by trite themes. Sure it’s nice to think about your childhood, Chutes and Ladders, Matchbox cars, Transformers, – ok, but what’s the point? A lot of people come to this sub-genre because they are convinced that there is a message in the music despite the garbled mess they hear on the radio. None of that was true here.
Again, in terms of sheer production and beat quality, you can’t pass on this record. But on the flip side, I completely concur with LMNO lyrics on one of his songs that becomes something of a self-fulfilling prophecy about the whole project. Without the DJ, and might I add the production, there is no jam here. Moreover, there is no album.
For fans of: Dert beats and LMNO rhymes