Commercial hip-hop, as it stands today, is close to death. The genre is saturated with people simply putting on a front, releasing basic rhymes over flat beats that use 808s to compensate for lack of musical acumen. But there is a ray of hope, someone working for over 20 years to keep the once rich genre alive, who knows the degeneration of quality in hip hop all too well and is not afraid to speak out on it. That person is Mr. P Chill.
Persistence isn’t for the weak of heart, or those who subscribe to the watered down philosophies so quickly espoused in popular music; it’s too honest, jarring and direct for anyone who would prefer to live in the fantasy world of gold chains and tons of women. It’s an album for those who are familiar with the old school way of doing things, who aren’t afraid to hear about life from someone who has obviously lived enough of it to know a little something about it. If you’ve ever had (or are) that middle-aged father, uncle or family friend who still acted young at times but had a ton of real world knowledge and used it to help elevate the youth, you will feel right at home here.
The hip hop beats were varied and just the way I like them: cyclical grounded melodies, meaty enough to stand alone but still serving as a sound foundation for the lyrics delicately dropped on them. There were a few trippy moments, such as in the chorus of “Nothing to Loose,” but of special note were the samples sprinkled among tracks. I smiled when I heard the brief snippets of Chic’s “Good Times” on Chill’s song of the same name – rather than borrow the entire chorus, he took the most memorable part of that song and used it sparingly for greater effect.
The real focus was the lyrics. Each song has a coherent point, though the album itself covers a range of topics from being your own person to love to struggle. I think I had the most fun listening to the biting criticisms of rappers out here who don’t put their heart into their music but still profit from the industry; quite a few songs on the album address this in different ways, most containing a restrained vitriol in which he maintains some sense of calm but allows his lyrics to rip his subjects to shreds. That said, the most jarring song in this category was “The 11th Hour,” which utilized a frenzied violin line and equally rapid vocals that told the story of the near death of hip hop. That song is like the frantic evolved sequel to Common’s “Used To Love H.E.R.”.
Woven throughout the album are moments of extreme personal significance. In this area, my favorite song was “Promises.” In it, he takes three situations that would destroy most people: aging, being broke, and not being there enough for his wife, and spins them into positive experiences to show that though things have been bad, they could be worse, and he is grateful to have gone through them. He reminds us that you can always promise yourself to do better, and by doing so can surmount challenges that make mincemeat of those who become broken by them.
Like any great hip-hop album, it was inspirational – it made me feel like if someone else who has experienced the very things I’m going through can come out on the other side smiling, I can too. I’m actually quite pleased at the resurgence of classic hip-hop on the underground circuit. It means that Lady Hip Hop still has a pulse. Artists like Mr. P Chill are her respirator and as long as he and the others are around to keep her legacy, she will never die.
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