Humble Beast (October 5, 2010)
Review by Matthew K.
Talk about a clash of titans. The two well respected heavyweights in Poems and DJ Dust collaborate for the first time in Dirty Words, a project characterized by a healthy dose of strong vocals and consistently solid instrumentals. These two influential artists have been contributing to projects beyond their groups of origin (LA Symphony and Mars Ill, respectively) in the last few years. DJ Dust, while still strongly committed to Mars Ill, has completed projects with Sev Statik, Deepspace 5 and a myriad of other appearances on other albums. Poems has now been a few years removed from his last work with LA Symphony, following suit in with the trend of the rest of the group’s members’ pursuits of solo projects. Poems (aka Sharlok and/or Sareem Poems) has been releasing solo albums for a number of years now with this collaborative effort being his 4th. Even before listening to the album a truer hip hop fan would be intrigued by this particular union; having Poems, who is more apt to appear on a Hip Hop Is Music project, team up with styling of the Atlanta-based DJ Dust. Suffice it to say that this unorthodox mix of styles came together to compliment each other well in Dirty Words.
The booming presences of both Poems and Dust are noticeable from the very start of the album. Dust immediately brings you into the PND project with an up-tempo beat that’s rich in sound and doesn’t skimp on the drums. As Poems begins his verse, however, it sounds almost as if this particular beat outpaces his vocals. While this style of and speed of instrumental is not what one would commonly hear on a Poems track, he does ultimately pull the track off successfully, giving the album a strong start. The project presses on after this whirlwind of an introductory track to reveal a steady and methodical piece of work. Dirty Words doesn’t miss a step the rest of the way through as Poems and Dust are able to harmonize their two distinct tastes without one overpowering the other’s. Tracks like “Listen Up,” “Change” and “Dig Deep” showcase the power with which Poems can lay down vocals. Poems’ voice itself is powerful enough, yet he also knows how to impose it on tracks in a way that demands the listener’s attention. Not to be silence despite the absence of his voice, the influence of Dust is written all over Dirty Words. “Power to the People,” “Oz,” and “Give Thanks” particularly have a feel that bear witness to what could be deemed classic Dust. The selection of drums, his patterns of scratching over the track and the samples he chooses to use in Dirty Words are recognizable to even the causal listener of any Mars Ill project. Not to be left without mention is the track “Lone Star.” This track is absolutely masterful. Both artists seemingly maximize on their strengths on this track to create something soulful, provoking and above all powerful. It is one thing to try to comprehend it based on written description, and quite another to behold it for yourself.
With a combination of power, thought, grit and variety, Dirty Words comes out to be a well-grounded album with lots to offer. Throughout the project Poems expounds upon some of his most inner convictions while challenging all who listen to be empowered in the pursuit of a higher good. If his straightforward lyrics weren’t influential enough in themselves, Poems’ powerful vocals assure that the words are driven home. While Poems has his lyrical fingerprints all over the album, this is through and through a Dust project. His sound is unmistakable and the result of countless years of experience. Simply said, Dirty Words would not be remotely what it is without the foundation he sets for it. This is a project that exemplifies a culmination of precision in thought and appreciation of eclecticism that should not be missed by any who seek good, fundamental hip hop.
For fans of: Mars Ill, LA Symphony, Lightheaded, Sev Statik