Review Summary: He really does.
If it’s not the inventive and eerily accurate pseudonym or the dope ass cover art of his recent release that ropes you in to IMAKEMADBEATS’ music, it’s the first taste of his production that will captivate your attention and – seemingly by some sort of divine intervention – force you to repeatedly listen to one of the craftiest producers in hip-hop. IMAKEMADBEATS, otherwise known as Nemo, has stayed under the radar of underground hip-hop, producing primarily for members of the Doxside Music Group (most of whom are featured on the album), and releasing only a pair of EPs late last year before dropping one of the most widely acclaimed hip-hop albums of January in this eponymous offering. The project features over 20 underground MCs, including Black Milk, Planet Asia, Smif N Wessun’s Steele, and 2010 Underground juggernaut Ide. With so many high caliber lyricists on the project, it’s even more of a surprise that Nemo’s production somehow consistently rises to the surface of each song and is constantly the centerpiece of the project, a facet of the album that is established from the get-go, with the multi-instrumental intro that borrows a leaf from Kanye West’s book in its “Runaway”-like guitar droning atop a gorgeous piano melody while J Freedome – effectively the album’s narrator – delivers a foreword of the album culminating in Nemo’s signature tag.
Throughout the album Nemo demonstrates his versatility as a producer, from his bustling urban beat that serves as the perfect backdrop to the politically charged verses on “Corporate N Gomorrah” to the spastic, impressive scratching and powerful key-smashing that drive the street banger “Revenge NYC”. One of the clear standouts on the album is “Imakemadbeats”, a MidaZ track in which he assumes the role of Nemo and recites a historically grounded mission statement to J Kroaz, who listens intently as MidaZ explains his production methods and passion, declaring “I don’t have a job, it’s music or starve”. The verses are of course enhanced by Nemo’s immaculate production, utilizing an ethereal piano loop to drive the beat, with desperate and crooning violins weaving in and out with a yearning male voice to layer the track. On perhaps the album’s most unassuming beat, another poignant lyrical performance is delivered in MidaZ’s “Twisted Heart” verse, a striking anecdote recounting the events which transpired from a seemingly frivolous tryst which seemed to spiral out of control, climaxing with the incarceration of the recently divorced MidaZ for rape charges.
While the Doxside performers (MidaZ the Beast in particular) deliver quality verses at every turn to complement each of Nemo’s beats, the producer himself manages to stay on point even after each of his beats conclude, often drawing the curtains on his tracks with a short skit thrown over a subtle piano segment. The skits, which generally elapse in less than a minute, demonstrate Nemo’s understanding of how a hip-hop album should sound, utilizing humorous snippets to retain the listener’s attention that might have been lost midway through a song they found uninteresting; the skits often consist of J Freedome poking fun at Nemo and his reticent nature, freestyling in the “Are You Ready” skit, “IMAKEMADBEATS is a faggot/Lonely dude who grabs rap sheets but can’t speak/What, Transylvania, is that where you from?/Why you ain’t say nothing man, cat got your tongue?” The skits then segue into yet another infallible beat, often influenced by a sound yet unheard on the album, including the Pete Rock-esque “365” and the fervent organ-led orchestration heard beneath Hezekiah’s illustration of the “war outside” on the anthemic single “What’s It Gonna Be”.
With a myriad of beats drawing upon influences perhaps more numerous than the guests on the album, Nemo establishes himself as one of the premier producers in the underground scene at the moment, delivering a rare hip-hop album that consistently shines in both the lyrical department, as well as the production side of the music; a feat that seems almost impossible to achieve in the current state of hip-hop, in which a lackadaisical approach to one or both of hip-hop’s critical features seems to be pervading the soundscape. And this doesn’t necessarily mean that a good album demands both sides of the music; IMAKEMADBEATS
could have just as easily been a fantastic and cohesive album if it was merely a compilation of the beats, completely devoid of emceeing, which again, is just another instrument added to Nemo’s sound. The fact that Nemo was able to scout such talent to accompany his beats is just another testament to his incredible aptitude as an arranger, as a musician. It may be too early in the year for such speculation, but don’t be surprised if you find yourself finding Nemo in anyone’s year-end lists this December.