When I reviewed Has-Lo’s debut album In Case I Don’t Make It last year, I was enthralled by the honesty and depth of a young rapper fighting against and questioning his own identity as it blended with the society and culture around him. That album read more like a book than a 2000-something hip hop venture as each track added a new chapter to the story, capturing the dark mood of Has-Lo’s thoughts almost perfectly. After such a solid and refreshing effort, it begs the question why the album was remixed and released a matter of months later in the form of Conversation B. This new version features a dramatic revision of each track and unfortunately saps the life out of one of the best and most overlooked hip hop releases of 2011.
To be fair, there’s no question that “Light Years (J-Zone Mix)” bangs much harder than the coinciding track “Kinetic Energy”, found on the debut. But therein lies the problem. What made the first outing so wonderful was its refusal to be played like a typical hip hop album, as it begged quiet reflection. When commenting on the debut, I noted that “in regards to production, In Case I Don’t Make It is reminiscent of some of the more laid-back hip-hop albums of the early ‘90s, and each beat, produced by Has-Lo himself, features it’s own identity.” Conversation B manages to lose that identity altogether with its scatterbrained chopped sampling. It doesn’t help matters that each track was remixed by a different producer.
Maybe Conversation B, with it’s glossy production and hyperactive pep, is going to be the release that brings Has-Lo the recognition he deserves. Maybe I’m just an old fogey who misses the days when I could enjoy a group like A Tribe Called Quest just as much during a quiet evening at home as I could with the stereo up in the car. Or maybe I’m just putting too much emphasis on the reflective content and feel of Has-Lo’s debut. Whatever the case, let’s hope Has-Lo’s next release sounds a little more authentic and a little less forced.