by Dan O
Up Against The Wall makes it real hard for me to care about pop rap. The kind of giant-sized pop rap albums sprinkled with high profile singles twenty three tracks long without any cohesion sold by videos taking place on a bad CG spaceship. Listening to those albums stress me out. We go from a song that explains what the album should mean to a bushel of songs that don’t mean anything, your not convinced the artist even wanted to make them. Pop artists must take big swings.
Fans of Yungmorpheus and Theravada know them to be artists who never step out of character. They are coasts apart ,sonically, with similar reputations. Yungmorpheus spits in a quintessential L.A. hush creating projects that always feel like new terrain while maintaining a flow and perspective chiseled into tablets thousands of years ago. Theravada is a great rapper with a rye wit and well placed references but his production, while hewing traditional, has grown more and more NY hazy deep and mesmerizing from project to project.
I am always creating fantasy collabs between my favorite artists but I would never have thought of this one. While both are high level at rapping ,as well as producing, and value their growth and consistency on a freak level. That voice over this production seems like it shouldn’t fit, right? Lots of on paper fears don’t come true for this listening experience. It’s around twenty one minutes with no song over two minutes and thirty four seconds but doesn’t feel like an EP. Up Against The Wall is more than the sum of its parts.
This Ain’t That is a perfect example. Theravada’s piano based mob music beat is a love letter to Havoc and the Mobb Deep sound I grew up on. Yungmorpheus as an emcee is getting so much done with so little breath. “Tired of these soft N’s yelling when they rhyming. Always purchase outright never on consignment. Your moral compass probably switch if the bag through. Paper chase got your head f’d by the cash rules. They don’t care about the craft just adornments.” This sonic environment is cold and filled with emotional subtext, a combination of spooky baselines and warm samples. It’s a great setting for our narrator who creates impact trading back and forth with Awhlee on Tighen Up or letting the sample finish his thoughts (a la One by Ghostface Killah) on Do You…?(Feel Me).
Nothing about this project is one note but nothing on it is out of place with the experience. Starker’s boiling NY delivery is a great foil for Yungmorpheus on Sodium Benzoate. Up Against The Wall is so cohesive you can play it back to back and it never ceases to help you. It snarls, mocks, diagnoses creating links in a chain strong enough to use for years. Will this be successful, raise their profiles? I hope so but if it doesn’t they should both know it’s just extraordinary how they made making great music sound so easy and made so many of the top streaming albums sound silly by comparison.
Stream then download Up Against The Wall; A Degree of Lunacy below:
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