Apollo Brown / Stalley: Blacklight Album Review

Apollo Brown is nothing more than a romantic hip-hop. His fidelity to the grime and grit of rap’s second Golden Age is well documented, but it goes beyond just trying to recreate DJ Premier beats. He flourishes through his instrumental projects and more than a dozen collaborative albums discover the passion he puts into his art. Most of them start and end with the sound of vinyl crunch, a simple but effective way to convey the Detroit producer’s love for the warmth of analog. Recycle your battery frequently and create music with outdated but reliable software. There’s a constant formula at work, but you’ve sparked interesting ideas with your pet’s sound for over a decade.

Brown’s work with the Brooklyn rappers Skyzoo (2016 The Easy Truth) and Joell Ortiz (2018’s Mona Lisa) leans toward the soulful bombast of late-20th-century New York hip-hop. In 2013 The brown ribbon, infamously adapted his drums and samples to the acapellas from Ghostface’s 2013 album Killah Twelve reasons to die. Anchovies, his 2017 effort with Fresno’s planet Asia, indulges in the drum-free loops popularized by Roc Marciano in the early 2010s. This year alone, he put on the soundtrack to an R&B album for the first time, Love Sick, with DC singer Raheem DeVaughn. Brown is a stalwart who has developed a following by not thinking too much about the simple nature of his music, which he does Black light, his first full length with the Ohio rapper Stalley, a natural progression for both artists.

As a former Maybach Music Group signer that went independent in 2017 in search of greener pastures, Stalley understands the value of standing his ground. He embodies the kind of smart but subdued lifestyle raps that have fueled Curren $ yy Dom Kennedy’s work since the blogging era, and he fits perfectly into Brown’s velvet atmosphere. “I left Maybach and got a curtained Maybach, family,” he says with reserved pride on the title track. Stalley’s unflappable flows and Brown’s halftime marches blend well musically, and their respective journeys through the darkness of rap place them at eye level. His convictions and craftsmanship give Black light your sharp perspective and amplify your position as a solid slice of meat and potato rap.

Meat and potatoes rap has enjoyed an extended moment in the sun with the rise of artists like Griselda and albums like Tyler, the Creator’s. Call me if you get lost. Brown and Stalley have favored these kinds of projects for years, no bells and whistles, just beats and rhymes, but Black lightThe concept of illuminating things that would otherwise be hidden fits perfectly in an age of excess and introspection. Though a handful of bars border the line between thought-provoking cheesy and cheesy dad joke, Stalley’s seriousness and variety make stumbling blocks easy to ignore. He walks between building a legacy (“I used to be at Western Union, now I’m writing checks”), coordinating designer suits with his partner, and deconstructing street politics in the face of loss with dizzying ease. “Humble Wins” and “Lost Angels” are among the strongest examples of the duo’s chemistry, the swagger of Brown’s beautiful rhythms pushing Stalley to expose his thoughts.

A couple of guest verses from Skyzoo (“Love me, don’t love me”) and Joell Ortiz (“Bobby Bonilla”) offer a change of perspective, but Brown and Stalley largely support the project on their own. Your confidence gives Black light best songs a sense of weight that fades a bit near the end of the project. The songs are too well written and too heartfelt to scan as glitches, but there are fewer standouts as you go on from their first half. That’s an unfortunate downside to being a hardworking artist: each song is nothing short of good on its own, but missing the sweet spot in album length can cause minor songs like “Broad Spectrum” and “Stay Low” to blend in. This isn’t a deal breaker, but it’s worth pointing out the difference between a good 15-track album and a great 12-13-track album.

More often than not, Black light thrive on this sense of comfort and familiarity. Brown’s rhythms are as soothing as they shake and rattle, anchored by familiar sample options and bolstered by Stalley’s in-game presence for anything. Their commitment to honing the fundamentals of hip-hop has earned each of them a loyal fan base, including Can actor Omari Hardwick, who spits out a fascinating poem at the close of the song “Omari’s Lament.” Black light not an experiment like Brown’s Anchovies Or a brilliant fast paced effort like Stalley’s Tell him the truth, shame the devil series, but the duo play to their strengths by meeting in the middle.


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