I love what Unagi does. The California beatmaker stitches soul samples and all manner of groovy bits into fine sonic tapestries. I bet he time travels in Doc and Marty McFly’s car from Back to the Future, and he goes spelunking through the hollows of the ‘70s and ‘80s, mining glorious audio coal to fuel his beat-smithing. But, as I’ve said before—about last year’s It Came from Beneath the SFC and this year’s Unagi For Lovers—I don’t always love what emcees do to what Unagi does (and that goes for Unagi’s own microphone fiendishness too). Things are different this time. For You & Eye, Unagi enlists Chicago, Illinois emcee Infinito 2017 (Marcellous Lovelace) to do the lyrical honors, and the results finally do justice to Unagi’s handiwork. The collaboration makes sense, given that Infinito positively rocked It Came from Beneath the SFC‘s “Expanded & Up to Date”. Here, Infinito breathes fire over this 7-track collaboration, with a barrage of flows that surprise like freestyles but cohere like spoken word. His stream of social consciousness connects nicely with Unagi’s curling baslines, soaring horns, and hard knock beats, as well as Unagi’s knack for tempo changes that would buck the average emcee with the force of a mechanical bull.
Things I would have loved: (1) “On Air Takeover”, the title of the third track, being used as the album title instead of the play on the “U” and “I” in Unagi and Infinito’s names; (2) more songs, more songs, more songs—there’s only six (excluding the intro but including the 1 minute, 17 second “Use Your Mind Right” and its delightful zippity-do-dah keys); (3) longer songs, ‘cause the longest ones only last about three minutes (“Game Winning Moment”, “Leave Me Alone”); and (4) more elaboration from Infinito about his Africa-is-for-the-African perspective, as the U.S.‘s news coverage has generally been thin when it comes to international issues of indigenous sovereignty and native land title. The “6” I’m giving You & Eye is deceptive because this joint contains material that’s better than a “good” rating. But, with a running time of about 17 minutes, it’s like trying to be happy with a mere glimpse of your soulmate—it’s just enough to convince you of the possibilities, but not enough for you to feel satisfied.