This is exactly what I was hoping for: A mix of outstanding emcees with even better production.
Every critic in the world could love this album and it wouldn't really matter, because it all boils down to one 'fakt': Boston native and DJ/producer Fakts One has been out of the rap game since his album with the Perceptionists, the heralded Black Dialogue, in 2005. And no one is sure why he decided to hang it up. All we know is that Mr. Lif and Akrobatik, his partners in the Perceptionists, were left stranded without a DJ before the start of their tour. So why now, three years later, is Fakts' debut, Long Range, suddenly getting released? I'm not really sure, to be honest. But what I am sure of is that this is exactly what I was hoping for: A mix of outstanding emcees with even better production.
The show begins with the Eric B.-inspired "Ridin' Dirty". Like great DJs before him, Fakts flexes his skills on the turntables and shows off his unbelievable scratching. Although he teases you throughout the album, this is the only track dedicated to his talents on the wheels of steel. But he's no slouch behind the boards. In particular, Fakts absolutely murders it on "Moments Matter". That chiptune-esque beat is both innovative and amazing.
The truly great tracks on here, however, are those featuring equally stunning production and rapping. "Grown Folks", which has an outstanding and fitting guest appearance from Little Brother, is one of Long Range's best. It's not quite up to the connection that Phonte had with Nicolay for Foreign Exchange, but it is a non-stop boom-bap anthem made for speakers turned way up. And both Tigallo and his partner Rapper Big Pooh handle their verses perfectly. Just as solid but more of a banger is "Don't Stop", featuring Boot Camp Clik. The emcees share the booth for a track that you will no doubt find yourself bumping as you drive down the block, Masta Ace style. Everything about this one just comes together perfectly. Another strong effort is "Born For This", with Boston-by-way-of-New Jersey emcee Chan. It's an excellent talk-my-shit track with an additional demonstration of Fakts' skills on the ones and twos at the conclusion. J-Live also comes with the lyrical fire on "Audiovisual", a mellow and introspective joint.
But, as you might have guessed if you saw the tracklist, the strongest efforts feature Mr. Lif and Akrobatik. First, there is the relentless "The Showstarter". Ak absolutely rips it with his murderous flow as Lif brings the heat as usual. The mic passing, the beat, the verbal onslaught…it's all just straight-up hip-hop. Although it isn't nearly as hard-hitting, "Selfish" features another show-stealing performance by Ak. He and Iyadonna argue like a married couple as they spit clever rhymes over Fakts' flawless beat. You almost lose his production for a second, but the switch-up at the end brings you right back.
Like any producer-driven album, though, there are bound to be unbalanced tracks. "Life Music" has a great, slightly-blunted beat and stands on its own without Rocklyn's raps, which are solid but not stellar. Another case of strong production paired with an average emcee is "U from the Q". Universal certainly holds his own on the mic, but he cannot keep up with that killer beat. The same goes for "Set The Mood" and the brilliant guitar sample littered throughout. But Rhymesayers duo Grayskul just doesn't bring it. Then there is the one weak link on the album that has run of the mill flows by hardcore emcees Outerspace and Kingsyze paired with a lacking beat from Fakts.
Perhaps I can remain confident that somewhere out there, Fakts is reading this. I don't mean to come off as someone capable of bringing him back, but it's important he knows that his work continues to reach and, more importantly, dazzle listeners. And we will keep bumping his music in hopes that he will one day return to the game. It's not too late, and hip-hop sure could use some more Perceptionists albums.