Since the tragic deaths of Proof [click to watch] and J.Dilla [click to read] brought new attention to Michigan’s Hip Hop scene, plenty of fresh faces have emerged. The harder personas and simpler rhymes of Trick Trick have come forth, while Elzhi‘s [click to read] intricate songwriting and Black Milk‘s [click to read] Technicolor production have shown extensions of everything that longtime D-fans knew, the mitten is musical. A former engineer for The Big Three, Finale, a onetime Rawkus 50 artist, is a relative unknown, with an album that not only carves its own lane in lyrics and themes, but is backed by the most comprehensive lineup of Detroit craftsmanship since they were putting 427 engines in Corvettes and Camaros.
Finale is not a thug, and his rhymes’ technicality hint at the fact that this emcee is both street and book-smart. However, with an overconfident delivery in the vein of Phat Kat, Finale also packs a punch that many of his peers can’t. “Pay Attention” uses an outstanding Rock loop, as if it were shoplifted from Just Blaze’s highest shelf, and implements some electronic synth work to remind you it’s Detroit all-day. Finale rattles off a simple, ’90s-minded chorus, on a song that focuses on how difficult it is for a 2009 artist to earn the attention of a Hip Hop listener, as well as celebrities in pop culture. If skills are enough, Finale commands the attention he rhymes about. “A Reason” is more rooted in common man raps. A balance of storytelling and social commentary, Finale makes sense of the word around him, from disconnected youth, lost females and wayward trends in Rap, over a simple, but charismatic beat from Ta’Raach [click to read].
Production helps A Pipedream And A Promise a lot. Finale never uses beats as a crutch, as his rhymes are fully present. However, a song like “Heat” is one of two works with J.Dilla. An electronic beat, the work recalls the Welcome To Detroit era of James Yancey‘s genius, and Finale goes off the reel, with syncopated rhymes that threaten the ear with an abrasive delivery. When the release appears to be an homage to existing Michigan style, a song like “Issues” seems to be more inspired by Toronto’s Broken Social Scene than Slum Village. The ambient production courtesy of Dimlite, is met by a Joe Budden-like cadence from Finale revealing his stresses, with Cold Crush Brothers‘ Prince Whippa Whip coming in afterwards to give this new artist a proper benediction for a long career in the game. Electronic yields to Jazz on the album’s title track, provided by Oddisee, with the legendary Blackbyrds offering support. Here, Finale‘s mic presence channels Rakim, as the emcee explains why the odds may not be in his favor to succeed in an oversaturated time in Hip Hop, but his will and convictions are built from something stronger than Detroit steel.
A Pipedream And A Promise feels incredible through its end, and after the Flying Lotus-produced bonus track “Paid Homage,” a biography of J. Dilla over a retooled trademark beat, the album gets even better. Finale explains his title in each of his songs, and explains his unique story, his deep sacrifices, and his pure love of Hip Hop. Take away the vloggers and the mixtape-flooding, and you would be hard-pressed to find a more inspiring artist in 2009 than this talented and righteous emcee right here.