This sessionaire doesn’t consider himself a MENSA member (though some of you should) and while he may be dumb, he ain’t stupid. No shame in Googling the word oneirology (the study of dreams, not some made-up rap word like the fateful Immobilarity). CunninLynguists aren’t trying to make you feel stupid at all. But damn, these lads are whip-smart. Nerdy almost. Part of their charm. This 5th studio album of theirs caught some of us heads by surprise. Some were still considering the semi-notional 4.5 star rating of producer Kno’s debut Death Is Silent from last autumn. Now, in the twinkling of a March Madness raindrop, the Southern ambassadors of intellectual/emotional hip-hop have returned to blur your mind and expand the genre further.
From the first, the artwork from Dutch illustrator Lois van Baarle sparks all the proper neurons (hearkening back to other QN5 nymph covers A Piece Of Strange and the aforementioned Death Is Silent). Kno seems to be experimenting with some new drum machines/sampling interfaces; while the sound is still lush with haunting vocal samples, there is a more synthetic thrust herein. Deacon The Villain & Natti (never slouches) are on top of their games throughout and serve as the album’s centerpieces/narrators; Kno chimes in with a few verses but it’s almost a micro-RZA/Wu-Tang format, letting other members of the crew shine while the heralded producer remains in the background.
“Ignorant” is a brilliant quasar of a track and “Stars Shine Brightest” lets you know spring is finally here (so nod your head along); the only real derailment on this magnificent train ride is “Murder (Act II),” an unsophisticated composition that does turn dreamier at the end. Even the shiniest diamond has a tiny flaw, makes some of us less-focused humans feel better about ourselves. “Enemies With Benefits” is just somber perfection: “nowadays love exists in the haze of a flashback.” Those are the words of a poet, not some swag-hop prat talking about 30,000 100, million stacks.
Hip-hop’s universe is larger than Wiz Khalifa, Odd Future & Rick Ross (and there’s nothing wrong with vibing to those artists despite the huge hype-machines behind them, oh and Boss might be a tad overrated); balance has always been the key. As the homie Christian Bale would say, “think, for one fucking second…” The club is fine but feed your head too. You can’t be angry and reckless all the time, trust, many have tried. Lester Bangs is long gone. We’ve blogged ourselves to death.
The album plays more like an extended hazy cinema verite sequence, revealing new layers with each listen. At the risk of further Stannery, let’s leave it there.