Review Summary: Transcendence.
Hip-hop has a troubled history. Springing out of dub music and blues, the genre owns political ambitions that conflict with the simplicity of its structure: the instrumental and the verse, two elements whose relationship has only grown more complex over time. Before it ruled the airwaves, hip hop was a stage upon which artists would compete to demonstrate mastery of a language imposed upon themselves and their families. It was, in many cases, a safe haven where cultural language rejected by the classroom could come to life.
The Hexalogy provides a similar haven for the celebration of romantic love. MC Shing02's relentlessly sincere approach to romance anchors Nujabes' classically beautiful instrumentals, neglecting nuance in favor of immediate emotional impact. While Shing02 navigates metaphors of human desire for love and progress ("Lovesick like a dog with canine sensitivity/Developing this new theory of relativity"), Nujabes provides gorgeous beats that amplify the surface beauty of each rhyme rather than attempting to create artistry through juxtaposition. In such a way, the political complications of American hip hop are shifted out of the picture to form a wholly alien, beauty-oriented take on the genre that showcases the style's strengths outside of its culture context.
It's this separation from American culture that allows Luv(sic) to transcend its genre. Over the course of the Hexalogy, Shing02 explores the stages of love - from physical infatuation to well-wishes beyond the grave - over straightforward beats that avoid distracting from his lyrics while providing increasingly intricate instrumental backdrops. Nujabes' production, while not technically stunning, is consistently gorgeous, utilizing jazzy, melodic loops to form a musical bedrock for Shing02's rhymes. A breathtaking saxophone melody intertwined with a warm organ grant part two a heavenly airiness where a flute melody lifts part three to one of the most beautiful hip-hop tracks ever put to tape.
Flowing through the stages of life and progressions in musical compositions in equal measure, Luv(sic) remains one of hip-hop's most unlikely and precious accomplishments. From the stripped-down boom bap of part one to the orchestral overflow of part six, Luv(sic) runs a gamut of ideas from start to beginning without wearing out its welcome at a restrained half hour runtime. That hip-hop's formational era of pain could give birth to something so unabashedly loving is a miracle. Rest in peace Nujabes.