Beans - End It All
"Conventional emcees might not hear it right away, but this album asserts that Beans' peers need to be very afraid of what they don't understand."
The defiance of convention has long been a quality embraced in Hip Hop. Kool Keith's syncopated verbal rhythms, Dr. Dre's use of melody, or even Madlib's altered vocal recordings. One of the leaders in defying convention was late 1990s New York underground Hip Hop collective The Anti-pop Consortium. One of the recently-reunited group's founders, Beans, may be more embraced in Electronic circles than he is Hip Hop, but on his latest album, End It All, it's still about emceeing in a style that has never been mimicked in the nearly 15 years he's been doing it.
On "Mellow You Out" , Beans is deeply poetic. He raps, "I walk alone, the line is literary / King shit lyrical, so critical / You all spineless and unoriginal," before adding, "And if the stars remain shining / I'm still rhymin' / To early morn / Rock to the p.m., dawn." The dope lines are accentuated with TV On The Radio's Tunde Adebimpe's cries giving the song even greater dimension. To a large extent, this release feels like Beans' return to Hip Hop, at least from the standpoint of who he's speaking to. On "Hunter," he says "You might see your video on the MTV / But you still ain't seein' me / On the M-I-C." That's true, as the organized chaos of Beans' writing appeals to fans of Wu-Tang Clan, Ultramagnetic MC's and Anti-pop's onetime Def Jux associates. At times, that sharp pen of Beans is traded for the purpose of serving the song. "Deathsweater" has rhymes reduced to simplicity, which match the beat, but greatly downplay Beans' abilities. End It All bounces like this, from some of the most palpable lines from Beans' book of rhymes in the last decade to experimentation with mixed results.
Part of what made Beans and Anti-pop so well liked was their booming beats. Hard bass and synth lines have always given the outfit a futuristic sound, and despite the emcee/producer's move to Anticon Records, the sonic formula is still maintained. "Forever Living Fresh" lives up to its name, as the Industrial sounds are matched with vocals exposing lying mainstream rappers that barrel down on you like an 18-wheeler in the left lane. "Electric Eliminator" is a percussion clinic, produced by the band Tortoise's Bumps. Other peripheral figures of Hip Hop like Fourtet, DJ Nobody and Interpol's Sam Fogarino check in with musical compositions that Beans meshes with, for better and worse. Still, this larger scale works from the White Plains native feels like his more organized solo work to date, largely due to the care in handling said collaborations.
In a freestyle, the late Big L once rapped, "I'm so ahead of my time, my parents haven't met yet." That statement has long been true about Beans. The emcee's futuristic approach to music-making has always made him an acquired taste in the now. Definitely respected, but a challenging listen. End It All knows that, and the Anti-pop front-man gives his strongest solo work to date. Not all of it makes perfect sense, but that doesn't mean it's not carefully thought on. And while conventional emcees might not hear it right away, the veteran is quick to pull cards throughout the album, that asserts his peers need to be very afraid of what they don't understand.