My Favorite Album of 2021

by Dan-O

guest writer- Willie Green

Like the best Coen Brothers movies the lead character leads. Oscar Isaac doesn’t let you down. Jeff Bridges doesn’t let you down. Prem is the best version of himself: verses with clever wordplay (“Abandon ship, can fit your admirable traits inside of the width a candles wick.—REMORSE), a flow that never suffers confusion, with a sensitive heart beating at the center.

I’ve listened to Load Bearing Crow’s Feet by PremRock more times than any other album this year. Most albums you listen to a lot within a short span of time and hit a wall. You need a break because you know when every moment is coming, and the listening experience suffers. On the other side, we’re all familiar with albums that push straight through that. Sean Price was almost ten years into a rap career before he dropped Monkey Barz in 2005 but that album was different. Just like Load Bearing Crow’s Feet in one sense: on the sixth or seventh listen it stopped sounding like an album of recent vintage that I like. It became an album I’d always had. The familiar sounds were etched into the speaker, not predictable plodding sounds but grooves dug in that will remain an active part of my musical life going forward.

Don’t get confused. Load Bearing Crow’s Feet is not my album of the year. Dan in 2005 wouldn’t have had Monkey Barz as his. No way to know that Common’s Be album or Game’s The Documentary just wouldn’t hold as time passed the way Price did. I’m saying that LBCF is an album I won’t ever be far away from. Whenever my son hears someone say “Next Left up ahead, that’s me.” He’ll hear the Denmark Vessey baseline in his head.

To call LBCF a complete album would be an undersell. It’s Coen Brothers complete.  A Coen Brothers movie always gets an incredible lead performance but what makes you watch the fortieth time is the colorful tapestry of Dickens-like side characters. Unique voices with powerful capabilities changing the very trajectory of the film. It Applies. Featured voices: Fielded, Elucid, Henry Canyons, AJ Suede, Zilla Rocca, and Curly Castro (twice). This is a cast of the most influential and unique people in the underground. They all steal a scene and become unforgettable. Elucid on the hook to remorse, Suede saying he’s HBO Max and anyone in his way is Crackle, Castro baking Ghostface references and watching them rise as his verse cooks.

Like the best Coen Brothers movies the lead character leads. Oscar Isaac doesn’t let you down. Jeff Bridges doesn’t let you down. Prem is the best version of himself: verses with clever wordplay (“Abandon ship, can fit your admirable traits inside of the width of a candles wick.—REMORSE), a flow that never suffers confusion, with a sensitive heart beating at the center. You can feel his passion in the produce line on Friends, his pride promising to leave with his head held high on Death on The Installment Plan.

My favorite songs keep changing, I can hear the Brainorchestra beat for Apollo Kids Meal just reading the title. I can hear Prem telling me not to run from it, “Just the first draft, not too critical.” I still check the production credits to make sure Prem produced Prairie Burn himself. It’s one of the coolest beats of the year. LBCF has some candidates for that list. The textures of Small Professor on Death On The Installment Plan and The Shortest Story Ever, back to back Messiah Musik joints (including my favorite lyrical performance on Soft Machinery), two perfectly placed Brainorchestra gems full enough to escape into and Willie Green with a mean screwface jam to hold it all together. The song Friends is the belt that holds the pants up.

While Willie Green mixes and masters everything you love he’s been working with PremRock for over ten years. As a partner producing mixing and mastering. Once I knew this album was the one for me I had to reach out to Green to ask him a simple question: why is this so different? It’s not like this is a different Prem. He’s not hyphy now. It’s just more than it ever has been. It’s like walking closer and the details becoming deeper and more vivid. What changed for that to happen?  Here is what the legendary Willie Green told me via email:

Load Bearing Crow’s Feet sort of feels like an acceptance of aging. Prem’s storytelling has always had a sense of world weariness, but this is different. This album has more of a mature and experienced viewpoint. I recorded his first solo album more than ten years ago and all of them since, so it’s been incredible to watch his artistic development. For many artists, early on it’s a matter of showcasing the technical ability. Then you start expanding your concepts, maybe explore more personal subject matter. But at this point with Prem, all that is a given. So when you have all the tools and that much experience, what do you do? One option is to observe the world around you and your place in it, and that’s what Crow’s Feet feels like to me.

He makes a great point. After all those years of proving himself in different directions, from Tom Waits concept album to ShrapKnel 2021 is the culmination of all that. He’s been stealing songs from people all year as a guest feature with this heightened level of focus. The dogged pursuit of as-close-to-perfect Prem as he could be. These twelve songs are not perfect, they are insane, referencing books I haven’t thought about in fifteen years or restaurants I’ll never go to. You won’t always get it. “Quoting Burroughs in his palm, like a psalm or a riddle (Soft Machinery).” Luckily he explains the world your in on Friends, “Rap for pool sharks and broken hearts with open scars.” It’s the best self-description of an album this year. He’s reached within himself to create something larger than himself. To speak of him but beyond him. As a creator you can’t do better.

Buy Load Bearing Crow’s Feet below:

https://planetpremrock.bandcamp.com/album/load-bearing-crows-feet

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