Although rap soundtracks are a rarity these days, the new popular compilation in the genre has become the producer’s album. Since Marley Marl and Dr. Dre began assembling such albums on their respective coasts, artists from Timbaland, to Jake One [click to read] to DJ Pooh have gathered respected emcees, unveiled their finest beats, and made albums that showcase ability and appease the shortest attention span. Many producers have tried, some have succeeded, but Chicago’s Mulatto Patriot didn’t quite make it work on Sonic Visuals.

Although the list of featured lyricists includes notable names such as Ras Kass [click to read], Pumpkinhead, Casual of Hieroglyphics, and Czar Absolute of the Chicago-based indie Hip Hop band Animate Objects, there are instances where it is obvious that someone’s flow needs some work or that they could reap the rewards from an hour or two browsing a dictionary. “Lethal Weapon,” featuring Doughboy, has moments on the second verse that make one wonder if the track may have benefitted from being rerecorded. Plus, when the hook starts talking about “real emcees,” one may ponder what they mean by the word “real.” The second verse’s bumpy flow conjures up connotations of the word in that “real beauty” sort of context that women throw around when they talk about embracing their own flaws. Not so much the “real emcees of the old school” context of the word.

In some cases, the lack of lyricism (or on the flip side, the occasional solid verse by the standout featured artists), distracts you from what you should be focusing on during an album released by a producer – the beats. Unfortunately for Mulatto Patriot, at times when the listener does focus on the instrumental at hand, they may be left underwhelmed. One of the tracks that features strictly an MP beat is “Dangerously Sexy.” Disappointingly it comes off feeling uninspired, and sounding damn near identical to the beat Cormega used for “American Beauty,” with just a few simplistic additions. A bit more originality, creativity, and complexity could have livened the track, and pushed for individualized sound.

However, amidst mundane points in Sonic Visuals, there are some glimmers of hope. Mulatto Patriot‘s instrumental skills get a chance to shine on the laid-back “Promontory Point.” The piano-heavy beat presents itself as the perfect thing to listen to at home on a rainy day to put you in a state of reflection. “They Don’t Know” featuring Pumpkinhead, Ka Di, Prosper Jones, and Mena, is an expansive track, designed for the open-road, while many Hip Hop records seem designed strictly for the iPod. While Pumpkinhead dares listeners to prove him wrong with lines such as “I got a flow that adapts to the boom and the baps, so I never flow the same on any two tracks,” heads will be nodding in unison with the chill vibes of the Mulatto Patriot beat.

Despite an incredibly strong and obvious respect for Chicago and its music scene that shines through Mulatto Patriot‘s music, Sonic Visuals still ends up being more of a disappointment than a triumph. The potential for a solid release was there, but with a level of lyricism that wasn’t up to par with the powerhouses that many have come to know and love from Chicago, and beats that could have benefitted from having a couple more hours of work dedicated to them, the potential didn’t grow into the satisfying product that it could have been.