"On the backs of the many... so the few can advance." - Mr. Lif
I've taken a passing interest in Mr. Lif from time to time. I don't own any of his albums, but I can appreciate his lyricism by way of the few guest verses and scattered tracks I've heard. And while he's always peppered his rhymes with politics, his single "Obama," released on inauguration day, was an interesting reminder of where the country's optimism was at after the initial joy:
"You seem like a good brother/But I gotta wonder/You're in D.C. with some of those that put us under/And I'm glad to have a man of your demeanor as a leader/But if the flick was Pulp Fic/I think he played the cleaner/Harvey Keitel played the character well/So the real criminals don't ever sit in a cell/Is that your position?"
"I'd like to be more optimistic but the world is twisted/A new America?/Oh shit/I think I missed it."
So if you can't tell by the bald-eagle skeleton clutching an oil well and a syringe on the cover of I Heard It Today, Lif's vision isn't any less bleak after the first 100 days, as he starts out the album murmuring, "Oh I see. So uhh, we all supposed to trust the government now that we got a friendly face to it now, huh? All them problems gonna be solved... everything all good, right?"
Production from J-Zone, Edan, Batsauce (wha...?) and others ranges from the low-key piano and bass of "Breathe" to the hollow-point drums of "Gun Fight" and the inside-out beat of "Hatred."
"Collapse the Walls" is a definite standout, a scratchy Motown beat punctuated by dubbed-out vocal effects and a chopped, distorted guitar hook that lifts you up and suddenly drops you back down into the next verse before launching into an echoey coda.
And while, in the past, if you'd asked me about Mr. Lif, I'd have said, "Eh, he's an alright MC," he steps things up quite a bit here. I don't know if it's the potent subject matter, or the fact that Lif can actually rhyme about it without sounding overwrought or preachy, but the overall effect is pretty impressive. All of the beats have a low-key-but-polished sound, and the lyrics are nice.
From the opener, "Welcome to the World":
"We break into this place, end up in jail/
Incarceration's gonna make the wealthy wealthier still/
He peeped me through the blunt smoke without a complaint/
Out of respect for my knowledge yo he showed some restraint/
We're the earth inheritors, representin all areas/
You spend trillions to control what we think - you're scared of us/
Y'all unworthy to serve we the people/
You profit off of death and you manifest evil"
I Heard It Today is strong from front to back, the political hand grenade that Nas wishes he would have made with his untitled album.