Halfway through the second decade of this millennium, the line between Hip Hop and its harmony based derivatives are more blurred than ever. Thanks to benchmark moments including Kanye West’s 808s & Heartbreak, the rise of Childish Gambino and Kid Cudi along with the success of Drake’s innumerable hooks, innovation has come to pass in ways previously unimagined. As the digital realm now becomes a breeding ground akin to a vast amusement park for discovering music, Phony Ppl has slowly made a distinct mark while tracing the footprints of their artistic peers. Yesterday’s Tomorrow transitions, as they’ve steadily shot for the top in wake of lead vocalist Elbee Thrie and his well-regarded 2013 release 53,000.
With respect owed to The Roots and Stetsasonic, Phony Ppl distinguishes themselves within the largely uncharted domain of a Rap band having song composition take the lead over verbal calisthenics. On an unpredictable journey, the album starts with the hopeful musing: “Wake up and I greet the sun/Feel like this is gonna be my special one/My idea of fun is to be at the right place at the right time.” Strong attention to detail and sequencing is the playful “End Of The Night,” where the protagonists Elbee Thrie and Sheriff PJ formally introduce themselves to potential love interests. Reminiscent of the Black Eyed Peas’ less pop-driven days, this catchy feel good opener has a rather lighthearted and optimistic outlook on the courting process.
What follows is a topsy-turvy ride of human emotion amidst the valleys and peaks of single life. Phony Ppl’s greatest attribute lies in experimentation while never becoming unfamiliar. “HelGa” pays tribute to the sung melody of Sly & The Family Stone’s classic “Runnin’ Away” (pushing the envelope with the addition of violins and a string section), while “Why iii Love The Moon” fully encompasses the brilliance of Yesterday’s Tomorrow. Dropping lessons of bittersweet wisdom, Elbee Thrie explains his eccentric devotion to the night time by stating “It’s constant unlike these human beings.” Though the well-crafted somewhat somber lyrics stem from a place of wistful discontent, they inspire tranquility juxtaposed against the uptempo percussion of, perhaps, the late great Jay Dee.
Yesterday’s Tomorrow uses instrumental interludes to piece together a story of a dysfunctional affair with “Compromise” breaking into a jazzy jam session before the hopeless ending “Somehow.” Though they have maintained ties to Odd Future’s offshoot The Internet or Queens based Rap clique World’s Fair, Elbee Thrie and his comrades carve their own niche; independent of their blossoming counterparts. Still a secret to anyone who doesn’t scour the web seeking out new favorites, Phony Ppl defies the classic definition of a Hip Hop act as more of a musical collective with sporadic emceeing involved. These children of the Native Tongues channel legends from Stevie Wonder to N.E.R.D. and The Foreign Exchange. Where the rapping falls a bit short in terms of punch, Phony Ppl’s production chops are more than enough to help them stand out from the pack as they continuously work towards fully breaking out of Brooklyn’s art-rap scene.