[11 February 2014]
In a world of MP3 downloads and digital music offerings, it’s refreshing to see a release that puts a lot of work into the physical copy. Rhymesayers Entertainment and the creative minds of Alchemist and Evidence came together to create the brilliant packaging for the collaborative record Lord Steppington. Both the CD and the vinyl come in a velvet slipcase with grandiloquent inner workings. It’s not often that the CD case becomes a topic of discussion with an album, but the presentation of the music is a part of the full-package and Alchemist and Evidence nailed that aspect with Lord Steppington.
Alchemist is no newcomer, but he’s showing no signs of slowing down. His output over the last few years has been almost unparalleled by any other producer, yet his work isn’t suffering from oversaturation. The packaging of these beats is nearly as good as the casing. Alchemist is a master of the boom bap sound, and his crate digging obsession supplies some great sampling framework. Instrumentally, this is right up there with the best of Alchemist’s releases of the last few years. However, it’s interesting to note that one the best beats on the album, “Byron G”, was actually the lone production credit for Evidence.
The production is by far the strong point of Lord Steppington. Alchemist and Evidence do enough to sound at home and move the songs along, but they never feel like they’re rapping with a purpose. Their rapping simply lacks personality. You could give these beats to anyone else and get similar results. There’s no personal connection, no memorable storytelling, no creative wordplay, and no character to make you feel that this the Step Brothers. The best verses on this album come from Roc Marciano, Domo Genesis, and Action Bronson making guest appearances and stealing the show.
Thankfully, the production is actually good enough to save this. It’s not even that Alchemist and Evidence are bad rappers or that they can’t hold their own. They’re serviceable on the mic, but they’re also incredibly unremarkable. It’s an album that doesn’t feel like it has a real aim. Lord Steppington is said to have been four years in the making, but it seems as if hardly any of that time went into writing. There aren’t any real themes in the album. The closest it comes is in song-ending samples quoting interviews, movies, and the sorts, although these segments don’t tie into any bigger picture.
The beats make good music for a ride, but the mediocre lyrics hold this back from having the substance that you would like a rap record to have. As it stands, Lord Steppington is very good background music. To some, that may be all you’re really looking for. Alchemist certainly doesn’t disappoint on the boards. “More Wins” and “See the Rich Man Play” are just a few of many neck-breaking beats. Lord Steppington is worth a listen for the production alone if you’re a fan of boom bap hip-hop. It’s just a shame because this could’ve been so much more if more of the focus went into writing.