Mr. Lif - I Heard It Today
"I'm over-skilled and understated/Often underrated/Overlooked because the market's oversaturated/I'm fascinated with this fabricated/Reality we're livin' in/So imprisoned in/A far cry from what I was envisionin.'"Mr. Lif is a rarity in Hip Hop. This isn't speaking to the fact that he's what many people would label as a "conscious emcee," but rather that he strikes a nice balance that very few rappers (including ones falling into that category) seem to be capable of. Rather than be scathing to the point of exhaustion like Immortal Technique [click to read], Lif is calculating with his indignation, and expresses it without shoving it down your throat.
I Heard It Today kicks it off with "Welcome to the World," an explosive track which makes it clear that even though Obama's in office, Lif doesn't automatically assume everything's all good (a lesson some other rappers could stand to hear). "Oh, I see, so we all supposed to start trusting the government again 'cause we got a friendlier face to it now, huh?" he asks as it begins.
"Breathe" is blessed with a delightfully sinister bass line coupled with eerie piano keys and deft wordplay typical of Lif: "I'm over-skilled and understated/Often underrated/Overlooked because the market's oversaturated/I'm fascinated with this fabricated/Reality we're livin' in/So imprisoned in/A far cry from what I was envisionin.'" Bahamadia tops the song off with a guest verse that will definitely make you wish she popped up on more music these days.
The album falters with the puzzling inclusion of "Collapse the Wall," which is a trippy cacophony, offering such limited platitudes as "This empire's gonna fall/If we use our mind power to collapse the walls." It's a little disappointing to hear Lif be so vague when he is perfectly capable of articulating his thoughts in a meaningful manner. Lif's focus is renewed with the extremely hard-hitting folklore, with Dumbtron and Vinnie Paz providing the perfect complement to Mr. Lif's more laid back delivery. Make no mistake, however, as Lif is no slouch here.
"Gun Fight" tackles the issue of police brutality, as Metro and Lif team up for some organized chaos, masterfully exposing and admonishing corrupt police at the same time and using a potent combination of movie samples and multiple perspectives. The song is preceded and followed by well-utilized skits which effectively turn the subject at hand into a personal experience.
"Hatred" has Lif sounding like he's rapping with a cold over an industrial-sounding mess of a beat. Unfortunately, it stands pretty harshly in comparison to the rest of the album. It's the album's final misstep, however, as the final four tracks all succeed on different levels. "Head High" boasts a beautiful melancholy, and "I Heard It Today" [click to listen] has a merciless Lif airing out the U.S. government over a quirky backdrop. "The Sun" and "Dawn" close out the album appropriately, as each provides a sense of hope tempered with vigilance and self-awareness.
With I Heard It Today, Mr. Lif continues to be one of the most likable personalities in Hip Hop. Although at times the album could stand to be more cohesive, Lif's delivery, lyricism, subject matter, and wisely-picked guest list combine to create something special. Even more impressive is Lif was completely on his own creating this album, his first since leaving indie powerhouse Definitive Jux. Once again, Lif is able to teach and not preach, all the while managing to be completely relatable - an impressive feat indeed.