label: Coup D'etat
our score: 4.5 out of 5.0
Damn, is this some hot shit straight outta
Dorchester. Akrobatik is the kind of MC created in a lab for smart
rap-lovers who also love to get down and boogie. The title track
lays it down straight; Akro explains that hip-hop needs BOTH intelligent
"conscious"-minded lyricists AND fun club/chart bouncers,
and then he demonstrates this for the rest of the hour. He has
flow, he has brains, he's got fat beats, and he's got his ear
to the street. He's my new favorite, and you'll like him too.
Why? Well, check "Hypocrite."
To a stuttering electrobeat that somehow manages to NOT copy either
Timbaland or the Neptunes, Akro goes off: "My name is Akrobatik
and I don't smoke crack / I won't write a rhyme if I think the
beat's wack / I don't shoot smack or pop pills to get loose /
And I don't drink liquor, it cause spousal abuse." He goes
on to castigate those who smoke cigarettes, those who carry guns,
those who talk mess, etc. etc. etc., and then goes on to let everyone
off the hook: "I don't do none of that shit but if I do /
It's because I'm a hypocrite JUST LIKE YOU." Dopeness indeed.
Then we've got the superb duet with legendary
rapper Diamond D called "Feedback." This swings it hard,
from the clever bassline sample of Gary Wright's "My Love
Is Alive" (I think) to the ripped-from-the-headlines lyrical
references: "Me and Diamond D is hanging kids over rails
like Michael Jackson" is amazing, but "Any MC that tries
to beat me / Is getting thrown against the rails like Jason Priestley"
is even more amazing. Diamond's flow is smooth and gangsta, playing
off Akro's more nasal aggro style, and this might be my favorite
track of the year.
But let's not stop here. There's a ton
of styles here, and Akrobatik is comfortable with all of them.
"Limelight" is all Native Tongues-ish and jazzy and
conscious, so Akro sounds like Posdnuos in this tale of a smart
girl whose lusting after bad boys leads to tragedy. "Remind
My Soul" is very Blackalicious-esque in its concerns about
black identity and longing for "the time we were great /
Before the self-hate / Wait, we still great, but…."
And the record closes with the beautiful ghetto-family ode "Here
and Now," where he works it on the truthful tip: "I
was rhymin' 'bout my skills and my sexual clout / When I barely
even knew what I was talkin' about." (Okay, this one sounds
a lot like Blackalicious too. But that's just about my favorite
crew around today, so there we have it.)
it's not all about the nicey-nicey, either – remember, this
is all about Balance, right? "Wreck Dem" talks about
how he can "Ax up the competition like Lizzie Borden"
and features the classic chorus sample "Watch a fly nigga
show you how to rhyme, asshole". When Mr. Lif drops
in to kick his shit, he sounds like he's having more fun than
he did on his own last record: "Step off to the side to take
a breather / Hit you with a blast of emphysema / Come back to
see ya / At my leisure." The next track, "Bonecrusher,"
works the violent side of the street, but makes sure we know it's
all a metaphor for rhythmic skill. And Akro follows this up with
"Woman II," a sex rap that manages to be funny (he doesn't
make his move fast enough and she gets bored) and sexy (he learns
how to gauge desire vs. respect) and extreeeeeemely funky.
So yeah, I love this record. It's not perfect,
but damn, give dude a break, it's his first album. And he did
it up. It's hard not to love this guy and root for him, because
he's got a good heart…but it's also hard not to shake your
ass while listening to him. And what do you need more than that
Prelude To Balance
4. Hand That Rocks The Cradle
5. Remind My Soul
6. Front Steps
8. Cooler Heads
9. Wreck Dem
10. Bone Crusher
11. Woman II
12. Always Bet On Ak
15. Here And Now