Music

Lushlife: Cassette City

Beats for days, above-average rapping, and a very strong first two-thirds make Cassette City more than worth your time.


Lushlife

Cassette City

Label: Rapster
US Release Date: 2009-07-07
UK Release Date: 2009-07-27
Amazon
iTunes

Albums by producer-rappers always come with a slight air of caution. Sure, the likes of Large Professor and Kanye West have proven you can be equally talented both in the booth and behind the boards. But, particularly in the case of Mr. West, you can tell when one takes a backseat for the other -- see Graduation's sometimes recycled rhymes, though that was technically more of a pop album anyway. Then you have cats like Madlib, who is obviously a superbly talented producer. When he decides to spit over a track, though, well, we all know what happened to "The Red" on Jaylib's Champion Sound, Madlib's fantastic collaborative record with J Dilla.

Luckily for this particular rapper-producer, and for hip-hop heads alike, the latter is not the case for Philadelphia-based Lushlife, who has delivered with his sophomore effort, Cassette City. And although there are some glaring problems that drag down the overall effort, the album is solid enough to make it a worthwhile listen, especially through the first eight of the overall 13 tracks.

In particular, the way "Innocence", which kicks off Cassette City with what sounds like a funeral dirge, bursts into "Daylight Into Me" is, without question, a work of genius. And it displays some of Lushlife's finest sample-chopping, a skill akin to Dilla. Lush's flipping and, dare I say, mangling of the horns sample on "Daylight Into Me" blends perfectly with the vibrant drums. But, more importantly, the track showcases his more fiery and updated flow, which has been refined since his topnotch debut Order of Operations. While it's a stretch to say you'll be reaching for the rewind button, the way his flow complements his beats is a testament to his skills .

And the intensity felt across the first two tracks continues through highlights like "The Kindness", which shows Lush's versatility on what plays like a dedication to Houston's chopping and screwing, and "Another Word for Paradise", a certified banger featuring more horn stabs and slick guest verses from Camp Lo. The only downside to "Another Word for Paradise" comes near the end, when the beat changes and you're left craving a verse over the new soundscape. Instead, the beat goes back to the horns and it ends within a minute. But, to be fair, that's nitpicking at its finest. Equally impressive tracks include the melancholy-turned-sparkling "Until the Sun Dies" and "The Songbird Athletic", the latter of which is driven by erratic post-hook percussion and finger-picked guitars.

Those aforementioned issues plaguing Cassette City appear toward the end, when the record's pace begins to stumble, even though the uplifting "The Fall of the Light Brigade" nearly saves it. Lushlife's Dilla-esque chopped-up beats start to blend together -- like on "In Soft Focus" and "Innocence Reprise" -- and evoke a sameness that inhibits the tracks from standing out. It's true that that same quality also lends itself to creating a cohesive feel. What it does, though, is remove the sense of cohesion that already existed. Rather than build and progress on the style he was flaunting across the album's stellar first two-thirds, Lush regresses to a lacking, all-too-familiar vibe. And his work on the mic still needs some fine-tuning. Although he has vastly improved, Lush doesn't exactly spit narratives you will want to commit to memory. Also, don't expect to hear a punchline or simile worthy of repeating. But, like other rapper-producer records, it's more than likely that his beats, and not his rhymes, will stick with you. And on Lushlife's fine second record, that's exactly what happens.

7

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Music

Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.

Film

Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.

Music

Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.

Music

The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.

Music

Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.

Music

Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.

Music

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.

Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.