Anyone with even a passing familiarity with DJ Premier’s discography will no doubt be familiar with Group Home’s Living Proof album, which is widely regarded as his crowning achievement as a production project. It’s also fair to say that the rapping, courtesy of Lil’ Dap and Melachi The Nutcracker, is something of an acquired taste. As members of the Gang Starr Foundation, the mush-mouthed lisp-riddled lyrical stylings of Lil’ Dap and boxer-turned-reluctant-MC Melachi may not have been of the caliber of GURU, Nas or Kool G Rap, but within the context of Living Proof‘s intricately-chopped samples and loops, it works. Plus it’s hard to hate on anyone who delivers gems along the lines of “I hit your moms in the head with a metal pipe,” regardless of how awkward the delivery may be.
Fast-forward eighteen years, and LA’s own weed-addled duo the Step Brothers have repeated the same trick. In theory, I should find Lord Steppington as appealing as having teeth pulled, based on the fact that haven’t traditionally been a huge fan of Evidence and the Alchemist on the mic. Based on their outstanding work as producers, however, I felt compelled to at least give it a shot, and as it turns out the album is actually great. Sure, Alan The Chemist still sounds like he’s reading his rhymes from a sheet of crumpled paper, and Mr. Slow Flow can sometimes be the audio equivalent of watching paint dry, but within the context of some incredible beats (all bar one courtesy of ALC), their blunted musings begin to inhabit a certain charm of their own.
‘Dr. Kimble’ finds the pair channeling Dire Straits over the strains of demonic fairground music, while the Evidence-produced ‘Byron G’ flips an hilarious Kanye West rant and ushers the return of Alchemist’s former Whooliganz partner-in-rhyme Scott Cain. (Yeah, son of the great actor James.) ‘Legendary Mesh’ offers a bizarre Tribe Called Quest hook over a bubbling vortex of track, before ‘No Hesitation’ delivers Styles P over a jaw-dropping flip of the loop you may recall from Pace Won’s ‘I Declare War’. For me, the album peaks with ‘Swimteam Rastas’, which boasts three superb beat changes and makes me wonder why anybody would consider it acceptable to make a rap song without three beats changes in retrospect. The amusingly-titled ‘Mum’s In The Garage’ includes some of the rawest Action Bronson line in some time, and is followed-up with another flawless Roc Marciano feature. Bless you, Rap Camp.
Fashawn jumps on board for ‘Banging Sound’, which loops a vocal stab from some 8-bit Nintendo game, the name of which escapes me at present. ‘Tomorrow’ with the other half of Dilated People and Blu (who sounds like he rapped his verse with a mouthful of marbles for some reason) presents a beat that’s begging for you to burn something to, and ‘Draw Something’ brings in Gangrene co-conspirator Oh No over a majestic loop, making for nine certified sure shots out of fourteen tracks, which is a damn good strike rate in anybody’s language. It’s also come to my attention that Rhymesayers are releasing this with velvet covers (!) for the vocal version, and are supplying double vinyl for the instrumental version. Wherever Melachi The Nutcracker is right now, he can rest assured that his legacy of the stilted flow is still producing enormously enjoyable rap albums. Salutes.