The Hype: Rhyming solo on the seventh installment of a 10-album project, Long Beach rapper LMNO emerges with another new album this year. And though it's been a long marathon so far, Tripping On This Journey (out Aug. 10 on Up Above Records) has him sprinting towards the finish line with sought-after French producer, Astronote. Working together and trading beats and lyrics off and on since 2006, the pair go at it again with inventive, intergalactic boom bap as a canvas for sharp-edged observational flowetry. Judging by the release of the album's lead single, "Hard To Do," we're anticipating very few stumbles on this 11-track trip.
The Judgement: Over the course of seven albums, we've seen LMNO try to synthesize his flows through a number of different producers while sharing bars with some very capable MCs. But listening to the impassioned, solo delivery of his new album, it's odd that his most diverse and inspired album thus far would be one without any guest features. Not to mention working with a producer who he's traded beats with (via Internet) for years.
If there's one thing that this album does prove, it's that when all else fails, write songs about what you know. In this case, LMNO uses Astronote's searing, synth-laden psychedelic boom bap as a spray canvas for songs about fatherhood, maturing in the rap game and, of course, clearing the hip-hop scene of wack-MCs. But even though those are some bread and butter topics for LMNO, the way he delivers them--on songs like "The Gift" and "Hard To Do" (the album's lead single)--are seeping with an honest and intense delivery that doesn't skimp on the production value for the sake of keeping things "underground."
With no guest rappers or forced cameos to cloud the focus on LMNO's distinct, hard-syllable staccato, songs like "Face to Face" allow him free reign to a construct complete and compelling song about the dangers of gangster glorification in hip-hop that clash with his experience as a real everyday hip-hop hustler with a back pack full of his records and a sturdy can-do attitude. Built on a hybrid of big beat production and shards of Eastern percussion and mysticism, the tracks of the album take LMNO's vivid observations on everyday subject matter and elevate them into something that will compel you to stick with him on this 11 track voyage of self-discovery.
The Grade: A