Mr. Lif is a
rarity in Hip Hop. This isn’t speaking to the fact that he’s
what many people would label as a “conscious emcee,” but
rather that he strikes a nice balance that very few rappers
(including ones falling into that category) seem to be capable of.
Rather than be scathing to the point of exhaustion like Immortal
to read], Lif is calculating with his
indignation, and expresses it without shoving it down your throat.
I Heard It Today
kicks it off with “Welcome to the World,” an
explosive track which makes it clear that even though Obama‘s
in office, Lif doesn’t automatically assume everything’s
all good (a lesson some other rappers could stand to hear). “Oh,
I see, so we all supposed to start trusting the government again
’cause we got a friendlier face to it now, huh?” he
asks as it begins.
is blessed with a delightfully sinister bass line coupled with eerie
piano keys and deft wordplay typical of Lif: “I’m
over-skilled and understated/Often underrated/Overlooked because the
market’s oversaturated/I’m fascinated with this
fabricated/Reality we’re livin’ in/So imprisoned in/A far
cry from what I was envisionin.’” Bahamadia tops
the song off with a guest verse that will definitely make you wish
she popped up on more music these days.
The album falters with
the puzzling inclusion of “Collapse the Wall,” which is a
trippy cacophony, offering such limited platitudes as “This
empire’s gonna fall/If we use our mind power to collapse the
walls.” It’s a little disappointing to hear Lif be
so vague when he is perfectly capable of articulating his thoughts in
a meaningful manner. Lif‘s focus is renewed with the
extremely hard-hitting folklore, with Dumbtron and Vinnie
Paz providing the perfect complement to Mr. Lif‘s
more laid back delivery. Make no mistake, however, as Lif is
no slouch here.
tackles the issue of police brutality, as Metro and Lif
team up for some organized chaos, masterfully exposing and
admonishing corrupt police at the same time and using a potent
combination of movie samples and multiple perspectives. The song is
preceded and followed by well-utilized skits which effectively turn
the subject at hand into a personal experience.
has Lif sounding like he’s rapping with a cold over an
industrial-sounding mess of a beat. Unfortunately, it stands pretty
harshly in comparison to the rest of the album. It’s the
album’s final misstep, however, as the final four tracks all
succeed on different levels. “Head High” boasts a
beautiful melancholy, and “I Heard It Today” [click
to listen] has a merciless Lif airing out the
U.S. government over a quirky backdrop. “The Sun” and
“Dawn” close out the album appropriately, as each
provides a sense of hope tempered with vigilance and self-awareness.
With I Heard It
Today, Mr. Lif continues to be one of the most likable
personalities in Hip Hop. Although at times the album could stand to
be more cohesive, Lif‘s delivery, lyricism, subject
matter, and wisely-picked guest list combine to create something
special. Even more impressive is Lif was completely on his own creating this album, his first since leaving indie powerhouse Definitive Jux. Once again, Lif is able to teach and not preach, all
the while managing to be completely relatable – an impressive