Boston's Akrobatik is undoubtedly one of Hip Hop's most talented emcees, but he is far from the most prolific. Since his debut EP in 2000 (featuring the classic "Internet MC's," which was so far ahead of its time and needs to be revisited), this is only Ak's second solo album in 8 years. After 03's Balance won him plenty of critical acclaim, including 1st place in the International Songwriting Competition for "Remind My Soul," Ak kept the name warm in '05 with The Perceptionists full-length with Mr. Lif and DJ Fakts One.
What Ak lacks in productivity, he more than makes up for in quality. Absolute Value lives up to its name with 14 tightly packaged songs, assisted by some of Hip Hop's best. Illmind leads off the album with his first of four tracks with "A to the K." B-Real joins Ak over the head-nodder and re-hashes his "a to the muthafuckin k homeboy, a to the muthafuckin k." line for the chorus. It's a solid start, but the album really comes to life with "Soul Glo." It may clock in at under 3 minutes, but that doesn't mean Ak and Da Beatminerz skimped on the flavor.
The first of several top notch guests stops through for "Put Ya Stamp On It." The like-minded Talib Kweli joins Akrobatik over an uncharacteristic J Dilla beat, the results are what you'd expect. The original Little Brother puts in work on "Be Prepared." With 9th Wonder lending his trademark soul each emcee lays a dope verse with Ak taking the title for; "I don't drive but always hearing 'Ak you're a legend.'" Sound that one out kids, genius. Asamov's Therapy and Willie Evans Jr. aid Ak over Therapy's playful track on "Black Hell Break Loose." Great posse cut to be sure, but does anyone think Willie was sounding a bit MF DOOM'ish in his verse? Speaking of playful production, J-Zone backs Ak with his usual brand of crazy for the LP's banging title track.
Perceptionists partners-in-crime Mr. Lif and Fakts One come through for "Beast Mode," which is a bit of a letdown. Not a bad track, just far from their best work together. On the other hand, Ak is at his best when he comes with a message. The Chuck D narrated "Kindred" will certainly turn a lot of heads for Ak's powerful verses about the pains of slavery. The Boston emcee does just as admirable a job tackling the modern day struggle on "Rain," but it is "Front Steps Pt. II (Tough Love)" that steals the show here. Just peep the words:
"this ain't no war on drugs, it's a war on thugs/they supply the guns, we supply the bodies with slugs/most of these crack-dealer-rappers are herbs/they 35, married, and livin' in the burbs/makin' money off of your lifestyle/but you idolize'em cause they move units and that's wild/these labels ain't fuckin' with you if you ain't coachable/ these labels ain't fuckin' with you if you ain't approachable/see there's more to life than rap and crack sales/but that info ain't made readily available to black males/they shut down the conscious rastas, but talk about being a pimp you'll get an Oscar/I'm sick of seeing y'all locked up and killed/and if the OG's don't tell ya, tell me who the fuck will?"
Living up to the title, you won't find anything on this album that will have you reaching for the skip button. That isn't to say it's a perfect album, it could certainly be more cohesive (see the consecutive tracks "If We Can't Build," ""Ak B. Nimble," and "Back Home To You"), and not every song will have you writing home to talk about it. But when you're given Absolute Value you won't be concerned with perfection, you'll be plenty satisfied.