Review Summary: Combining well thought out lyricism with soul baring beats, CunninLynguists have crafted one of the most interesting and diverse hip hop albums in recent memory
I'll be honest here: when I was first told to look into CunninLynguists, I somewhat balked at the crew's less than dubious title. To be honest, I passed them off as a group obsessed with nothing more than dick and fart jokes, nonsensical college fratboy humor. And that seems to be the group's biggest problem, they're just so goddamn unassuming
. Luckily their more street consciousness approach on Will Rap For food
belies the less than ubiquitous first impression I had of the group. Now in a way this works to their advantage, as their love for and dedication to hip hop is staggering. Their appreciation for quickfire poetry and on point lyricism is an instant drawcard, and they handle it with such swift aplomb and undeniable joy that you can't help falling in love with them. There's such pride and a sense of achievement hidden in their rhymes, and you can tell that they do it all for nothing more than the pleasure of just being able to. But this unassuming nature also works against them, they're by no means the biggest name in the business, and truthfully there's no reason why they shouldn't be enjoying their slice of the mainstream recognition pie. Their beats are no more steeped in underground territory than many of Atmosphere's recent joints, and they've worked with the likes of Mac Lethal and Slug, and shared the stage with none other than Kanye himself. The biggest problem is that they seem to be incredibly under-hyped, almost entirely their own doing as well, as announcements for the group are relegated to no more than the blandest of social networking messages. CunninLynguists have the capacity and the equipment necessary to become darlings of a much bigger stage, and hopefully Oneirology
might potentially be the final push necessary before they're swallowed whole in the arms of publications world wide. God knows it's good enough to accomplish this seemingly easy task.
A loose concept album revolving around dreams and what lies at the heart of our subconscious, it's hard to define an album so early as being the potential landmark of any group's career, but Oneirology
effortlessly makes this challenge so much easier to accomplish. The biggest drawing point for this album is how different it sounds in relation to the rest of the group's back catalog. It holds a candle for A piece Of Strange
, but where as the former stripped everything back and came out as a dense and slow burning ode to hip hop, here the same style has been amplified and turned into a complex and atmospheric (and at times, haunting) listen. Kno, fresh off last year's well received solo effort Death Is Silent
has taken the dark concept he collided head on with and turned it into a musical counterpoint. There's a solid consistency to the music as well, no off-putting aside into a single radio jam present. Kno matches the deep-in-the-mind burrowing ideals of the album with equally subconscious-plumbing beats, with dense murky layers and smoky hooks digging deep with their hooks and seemingly refusing to vacate.
Lyrically, there's all the usual stuff to report: that the boys are still firing on all cylinders after ten years in the business and the usual improvements have all been made, and any discrepancies have been addressed and rectified (and all of this is true). In fact, the level with which they have improved is a feat in itself. They've never been terribly rough around the edges (bar a few obvious deviations dependent entirely on the subject matter) but the maturity with which they handle their concepts is genuinely unnerving. When I mention maturity I'm not just talking about the obvious experience paying off in a keener understanding of lyricism and story telling, but how they've actually gone about filling in their loose concept of dreams. Dealing with that type of subject matter the crew have delved into a series of stories, bordering on fantastical, like 'Murder's' violent underpinnings (If I could get away with murder, I'd take my gun and I'd commit it
), to shattered delusions and the yearning hope of somehow being able to repair and bind the broken, like Natti's verse on 'Shattered Dreams'. There's a lot of what-if's questioned here, a lot of second guessing and regret. CunningLynguists use this idea of being comforted by the knowledge that in the ever peaceful realm of their minds that they can hopefully mend their wounds without ever having to worry about them out in the real world. This somewhat delusional aspect, while a little pitiful and at times borderline cheesy, allows the emcee's to literally pour their hearts out over the stone cold beats, and put voice to previously unspoken regrets and callous indecision's. Perhaps in lesser hands this would come off as little more than depressingly trite, but here it's sincere and vulnerable, not hiding behind the swagger and hopeful invincibility of typical hop hop posturing.
It's possibly the groups most cohesive outing yet, and so far possibly the brightest hip hop album of the year, being only potentially outranked by Raekwon's recent effort and Pharoahe's upcoming joint, but Oneirology
is quite literally something else entirely. It's an improvement where such a thing didn't seem needed, it's the group branching off into previously untapped talents and story-telling. Mark this down as one hell of a success, because this is quite possibly the group's best effort yet.
I am bravery in a bottle, I am courage in a glass. I've got the government's approval, prohibition couldn't last