Planet Asia & DJ Concept’s collaborative album Seventy Nine begins with a vocal sample explaining how the scarcity of gold is due to its production needing “the rarest conditions in the universe.” It’s reminiscent of 90’s Hip Hop, often referred to as the last Golden Era of the genre. A time with a higher concentration on lyricism and art of music because there were scant historical precedence of riches from rap. It also coincided with America entering a time where the interest in this relatively new artform was increasing just as the country was entering into an economy so profitable it makes today’s look like a dystopian future.
That is the soul of Seventy Nine. It’s an album that not only doesn’t shy away from nostalgia but it’s emboldened by it. Powered by explicitly and implicitly diverging itself from current sound of Hip Hop. Before the summery feel of the album’s fourth song, “International,” the first song radio ready song of the album, Planet Asia lets you know “this ain’t a Belly scene, this is rarely seen” (“Intro”), “this is top tier teardrop rap” (“Valuable Metals”), and “this is fine jewelry on display, so let this shit play” (“The Expo”).
The bars are as expectedly sharp for an MC of Asia’s caliber with nearly 20 years in the game. He decimates at least one wack MC and a few pretenders on every song. But, his pen is vivid enough to paint a picture of a time when “they used to power parties off the light pole.” The posthumous verse from Sean Price on heatrock “The Festival” where he raps “black on black crime, I am afrocentric” is quintessential Pyrex pot Sean dropping precious jewels.
But, besides “International,” Seventy Nine is a collection of well rapped verses that display nothing more than Asia’s unmitigated bravado that buries any insightful lyrics in flowery wording. While guest MC John Robinson spitting “knowledge that is transcontinental, rhyme essential” on “Gold Chain Winners” does rhyme, it sounds clunky and superfluous. Asia rapping “Victorious scriptures amongst the most triumphant, my circumference” alongside Blu and Agallah is basically saying he’s around a lot of winners, but Asia does not make that easy to comprehend, maybe by design. Even on the good songs, it resonates as the norm.
DJ Concept’s production is refreshingly vintage with beats anchored by a looped vocal crooning (“Intro”), minimalistic drum-bass-synth progressions (“The Festival”) and the beatific light piano chimes that dance around Asia and L.A. rapper TriState gruff bars on “The Expo.” The twinkling keys on the latter sounds like gold shimmering and is the perfect backdrop for Asia. The producer from Long Island, NY did an exceptional job creating environments for his subject to run through, whether it be the buttery horns that melt on beach soundtrack of “Fresh” or the somber chanting on album closer “Sacred Sermons.”
Seventy Nine proves just how hard it is to create something so rare, and for the most part, succeeds. After all, gold’s atomic number is 79, one of the highest numbers for any material found in the known universe.