The modern era of Hip Hop has provided the interesting revolution of bi-coastal music. Sure, ages past have had pairs and groups who have sat together side by side in the studio piecing out each snap of the snare and each bar of the 16, but it required a lot of work to get the sync that local acts acquired through passing on the same block. Within the last few years, the power of growing Internet speeds and the ever-increasing use of software to manipulate sound have brought different acts to try new things.
Brooklyn’s Sene and Los Angeles’ Blu [click to read] are the latest to try the east coast / west coast mesh. Many of Hip Hop’s underground supporters remember Blu’s potency on the mic, having teamed with Exile to produce Below the Heavens [click to read], one of 2007’s surprise critical darlings. Those yearning to hear more of his sublime flow will be shocked to hear he is the producer on this one, however, those who have been following closely will know he has recently picked up the art. Sene is the first to get hit with a full length of production from the artist with A Day Late & A Dollar Short, and although there is some solid music here, it won’t be the darling his emcee debut was.
Throughout this album you find yourself getting to know Sene. He uses the 14 tracks to give the listener some serious time inside his psyche. “QuarterWaterSupporter,” the album’s single, personifies just how he gives a piece of mind towards the album’s listener. His rhymes are woven in and out of the production and cash in on the electricity the backdrop provide. It’s one of the jolts of energy on A Day Late & A Dollar Short, and it is subtle effect is felt throughout the album.
He does have a tendency to lock the listener in, and like a rookie quarterback on Sunday, this allows for the listener to sit within the realm of predictability. “WonThousandGirls” is a prime example, with Sene just ripping off verses. It catches your attention at the beginning of the first verse, however by the start of the second verse, it drops into that trap of boredom, and leaves the listener detached.
The backbone of this albums production lies in the sample. Blu’s method calls on running with the loop and dancing around it with his own subtle touches, sometimes wrapping samples within others. It is reminiscent of Exile’s style, with its sample first approach. When it works, it creates good music. ”Wonlove,” one the albums first ballads, show his sample ear with Sene’s ability to wrap his lyrics in a sincere realistic way. However, sometimes it leaves the listener with a beat that overpowers the artist, and places the beat on the outside giving the listener a clear view to all of its flaws. The album’s opening, ”PressPause” [click to listen] falls victim to this, as Sene can’t seem to break through the beat.
Sene never has a lack of topics to touch on throughout the album. Where some who try this approach end up with a scattered, schizophrenic album, the collection has loose threads like personal problems, religion, love and life to tie it together. It flows into a well paced album, a svelte 14 tracks, that does a good job cutting the conceptual fat.
These two do share certain chemistry, as many of the selections on A Day Late & A Dollar Short are drawn out in a concise, practical manner. The album rides all the way through, and many of the long players that have come out recently cannot claim the same distinction. However, sometimes Blu’s heavy-handed sampling and Sene’s sometimes monotonous flow stop this from being more than that. Even so, for those who are fans of either, or need something different to listen to, this album is enough to satisfy that urge. Flaws or not, this comes across as some sensible music.