The intangible brilliance in a producer is being able to arrive at and capture the very best of an artist. It’s a combination of casting the right voices on your songs and making sure you give the audience the very height of what they bring to the table. That is the true victory of Eastern Medicine, Western Illness a full project by the producer behind The Days of Dr. Yen Lo (with Ka) and my favorite Mos Def song of all time, Priority. The fact that he dug deep into the music of Hong Kong and came out with sounds that create moody time signatures and spooky chimes is very cool. It would be enough of an accomplishment to be able to say you took the music of Hong Kong and put the most rugged East Coast underground rappers over them but…that’s second place.
Mach Hommy gives two performances and his flow is a living instrument. On I-78/Capillaries he stretches out and eats up the vast sonic space created by Preservation but on Correspondence, after Your Old Droog makes himself laugh talking about Puerto Rican baby naming trends, Hommy comes in like a laser dropping his atmospheric prowess and wrecking shop “I keep a stick like Leonard Bernstein, who wanna conduct?” His references are dizzying tangled and one of a kind. It’s every inch of MVP Hommy.
On Wan Chi Nickelus F let’s a pulsing groove probe his deviant mind until he finds imagery ONLY he can provide. “I drop my nuts on your porch and crack the earth in two.” As an avid F fan it is glorious to hear him back in his madcap threatening prankster mode. I could go for a full album from Preservation and Sweet Petey.
North Bridge creates an avalanche of drum sounds and chimes behind Navy Blue to force the hushed Brooklyn rapper to project the pain he feeds into his verses. It’s a challenge he steps into and overcomes in a way that makes this one of his best songs.
Tree is so damn good on Money In The Wild that it makes sense to hear that Preservation had him in mind from the very beginning for this project. This is Sunday School 2 level for him where his gruff delivery sets a bounce pace that sends electric waves of excitement through the rest of this compilation.
As someone who firmly believes that Ka is the greatest lyricist in the world right now, I get chills listening to the beginning portion of A Cure For The Common. Ka is not the kind of dude who could ever have an anthem. He’s too introspective, too muted but this is as close as it gets. Preservation found the “Ka” audio sample and weaved in like Oh Boy era Just Blaze but that’s just the first stage of the beat. By five minutes and three seconds you’ll have listened to ,possibly, the best collaborative track Preservation has done with Ka. Our narrator mumbles at the end as the wind instruments and drums meet, that this is a beautiful art he has pride in. He doesn’t give that kind of improv from his guts to just anyone.
Now Ka smashes his collaboration but I’m not sure it gets the prize for best bars on this album. Billy Woods is more prepared than anyone on Lemon Rinds. Take the opening line, “I made it easy for her to leave me, what a guy. Five years a show that’s that old college try.” This is a lesson from Woods on the three dimensionality of his music. If you think he’s too serious he’s got the Louisiana Purchase in the duffle. He’s funny, self-critical, and somehow both literary and literal; someone whose lyrics can explain the emotional ramifications of every mistake in a short verse. A looped hum and car stereo ready bass push him to a very special place. “Shadows like steeples on churches.” WOW. Billy Woods is on a run.
Preservation can experiment with sounds without gambling. He still makes a beat Roc Marciano can drag his fur coat all over (Medicine Drawer). More importantly, people show up for him with their best performances ready which says a lot about the level of respect they carry for him. AG from D.I.T.C. sounds inspired on Children of Never and it’s as simple as knowing your in the hands of Preservation.
Stream or download Eastern Medicine, Western Illness below: