After a few years of anticipatory mixtapes, the debut album by Radom Axe has finally seen the light of day. A multiregional supergroup of sorts, Random Axe is comprised of three men who have cut their teeth in the hip-hop underground: Detroit’s Black Milk and Guilty Simpson and NYC’s Sean Price. Individually, these three carry lavish resumes, but as a clique they offer an even more impressive product. Sean P’s gruff and rugged voice and Simpson’s penetrating off-kilter flow complement each other well. Milk—a formidable MC in his own right—forgoes rapping this time, and instead concentrates primarily on the production and beat-making side of Random Axe.
For anyone not already familiar with these fellows, the first song, “Random Call” serves as an adequate introduction. Simpson—coming off an outstanding collaboration with producer Madlib; last year’s OJ Simpson album—gets the first verse. “Find me in the ghetto, puffin’ herb/Motor City madman, stackin’ bills…Talk to me foul and I’ll clap the steel/The type of dude you’ll have to kill.” Price—choosing the subject matter he’s most familiar with—tells you what he’s all about in the second verse. “No love letter rhymes and raps about chicks/Just a whole lotta druggin’ and thuggin’ and that’s it/You can call me one-dimensional but there aint too much talkin’ when the slug gets into you.” The best part is that all this G-talk is on top of Milk’s most radio-friendly track on the whole album.
As the record progresses it becomes clear Guilty Simpson— although the lesser known of the two MCs— is the star of this show. In terms of scope, his topical range reaches further and wider, while Sean Price seems to suffer from an apparent lack of subject matter. Most famously known as a member of the Boot Camp Click, Price is the most gangsterish of the crew and he makes no bones about it. Although his delivery is effective, he doesn’t offer up much other than gun-clap raps. In “Monster Babies” he spits, “I am the pick of the litter/You are the bitch the gets hit and starts snitchin’ on Twitter/Tweedledee-Tweedledumb niggas/When you see P you better have your gun, Nigga.” Whereas on “Never Back Down” Simpson drops an intense breathless word-association verse crowded with cultural references and fake words that will leave you needing a drink of water just from listening to it. “Carnivorous slang/I feast on flesh/Orangutan/bananas clips beat on chest/Dirtier that Ms. Lewinski’s skeet-on dress/I’m beyond blessed/Feet are in the seat armrest/Defeatially we the best/See the rest is just clones/Hip-hop drones singing the same old song/Fuck with this ya can’t go wrong/By these standards I can’t even put a Kangol on.” Whew.
Although the record has a few interludes, it is free and clear of the skits that have plagued many hip-hop albums. The unfortunate part is that some of the best beats are wasted on the interim moments. Nitpicking aside, there is not a lot to complain about though—Random Axe is a fiercely independent hip-hop record. Black Milk’s beats range from simple yet contagious boom-bap to electronica-infused chill-outs. “Jahphy Joe” is a percussion-heavy banger that recalls both late-’80s east coast and early-‘90s west coast jams, while “Everybody Nobody Somebody” has sci-fi B-movie eeriness lingering above a deepened dubstep-esque low-end. Just in case we may have forgotten about his solo record, Album of the Year, Milk makes an appearance behind the mic on “The Hex” to remind us that he can rap too. There are a handful of guest spots here—mostly by Detroit MCs—to break up the would-be monotony of the Price/Simpson combo, but it’d be nice to hear more of Milk’s fluent dispatches as well. Here is to hoping Random Axe isn’t a one-time-only thing.
7.5 / 10
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