Mr. Beatz “Spit Therapy” – Album Review
Few faces are as ubiquitous in the New York underground Hip-Hop scene as Mr. Beatz. Having been seen everywhere from the dead prez “(Bigger Than) Hip Hop” and Homeboy Sandman “Lightning Bolt” videos to being the special guest DJ for all of your five-borough favorites, it’s rare to even open your window without seeing Mr. Beatz somewhere out there supporting Hip-Hop. Whether it be DJing, MCing, or just about any other aspect of the Hip-Hop culture, chances are you’ve seen Beatz do it. Finally, after a decade of being a dependable staple, he’s ready to unleash his debut album Spit Therapy.
Not one to let any of his talents go to waste, Beatz handles the bulk of the album’s rhymes, beats and scratches. Such a rare trait is exactly why the record sounds as cohesive as it does. Being such a Hip-Hop renaissance man has given him a unique ear, finely tuned to know exactly how he wants the album to sound. The strengths of this tremendous advantage extends beyond his own work in to the album’s contributions of others. Like the best Hollywood directors, Beatz knows what outside production fits the soundscape and who would sound the best over it. East Coast favorites such as Homeboy Sandman (“The Cypher”), M-Tri, Niles Davis and Stronghold’s Poison Pen (“Underground’s Finest”) and Solomon Jazz (the album’s title track) all give some of their best guest performances, complimenting the record perfectly.
But Beatz’s solified persona is why the album works. While I’m typically of the belief that a changing man is more interesting than a changed man, the combination of his knowledge-of-self and honesty gives Spit Therapy the strongest portrayal of a New York artist this year. Sounding like something that would feel right at home if released on Fondle ‘Em Records, the dedication here shows a man who attempts to pull out all the stops in order to make the best rap album of 1997 in 2010. With exclusively sample-based production and non-singing repetition-based hooks, he makes it easy to guess what makes up his iPod playlists. Even his vocal performances, while they bear the same vocal inflections as his freestyles that give the album a certain energy and unpredictability, the attention to syllables shows someone who must have racked his brain for hours on end to max out every possible rhyme possibility.
However, it’s these moments of overthinking things where the record comes up short. While many of the East Coast underground singles of the late-90s that most influenced this record had their flaws come from the aspects that didn’t age well, Spit Therapy suffers from the same troubles, only now the wounds are fresh. While it was a nice almost-nostalgic feeling of hearing someone non-ironically using the word “lyrically” as an adverb again, by the end of the album its presence is just a little too much. The same goes for Beatz’s own intros and outros on the songs. While the conversational tone he strikes with his collaborators like The Avid Record Collector (“Plain and Simple”) and Skammadix (“Blues Brothers”) replicates the fun he had making the song in the listening, there are a handful of moments where his post-song rants become him beating the listener over the head with the concept. With an album that defines so clearly who Beatz as a person is, it’s just unnecessary for him to tell us who he isn’t.
Who he is goes beyond the album’s aesthetics and goes as far to break the fourth wall at moments and show, in his words, “not even Mr. Beatz right now, but Randy Wing.” “Above Water” deals with the very real oft-overlooked aspects of maintaining a real life while your nights are spent rapping, “Throw it All Away” chronicles every rappers’ moments of self doubt and the unexpected closer “Pictures and Memories” deals with the dimensions of mourning one goes through at a lost loved one’s wake. These songs elevate the record as Spit Therapy’s primary focus of braggadocios battle rap and boom-bap purity follows a formula that wouldn’t normally lend itself to such intimacy and vulnerability. What results is a very balanced MPC Manifesto of an MC who knows exactly what he wants to do and almost does it perfectly. The album that any number of 90s battle rappers should have released a decade ago, Spit Therapy stands alone as underground rap’s renaissance, requiem and regeneration.
We give Spit Therapy a Three Out of Five.
So until next time…Let’s Agree to Agree!
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