Sims is something of a firebrand on his early work, spitting political vitriol and pointing fingers outward and in on records like Lights Out Paris and Bad Time Zoo. This time around, the Minneapolis rapper is looking even more inward on the new More Than Ever, a record that pushes expectation beyond the hard-hitting beats and spitfire lyricism with echo-y and dreamlike tracks interjected through the more traditional beat-heavy songs.
The album is an interesting experience between his more traditionally structured “OneHundred” or “What They Don’t Know” mixed in with the ambient tones of “Spinning Away” or the dreamy “Gosper Island.” He twists tongues and drops observant and descriptive rhymes through it all but it’s a new tone that gets heavy and hard before drifting into a no man’s land, sort of the hip-hop equivalent of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World’s mind subspace (for all you Bryan Lee O’Malley fans out there). The record feels like a journey, but not one with an ending -- more of a snippet from a winding road along an epic. There are struggles, highs and lows, but no real resolution. The onesheet notes the festive moments of the record, but I hear more introspection than celebration as a whole.
And now that I’ve gotten all deep on things, just like the record, let’s bring it back to the specifics.
As the record gets spinning, “OneHundred” is the first big standout. Lazerbeak’s beats are alternately heavy and reverb drenched, creating a big sound with a bit of an alternate universe vibe as Sims voices, “I’ve been living in a fishbowl.”
“What They Don’t Know” later on brings in some his quick pitter-patter delivery, including his bp-bp-bp Porky Pig at the beginning (which is rather amusing in that it actually works) amid a song that favors hi-hats and light stepping beats devoid of big bass drench. For the most part, the first half to two-thirds of the record keeps the pace up, slowing it down and swimming through that subspace a bit but never really drowning in it. That comes toward the end.
I’d like to call out the 5:25 “Voltaire” for its name, which is pretty apt for the vibe on the tail end of this release. It’s the longest song and moves at a novel’s pace with slow storytelling and a sleepy bass drone that plods and pops, questions and searches with an ambient tone before it segues into the similarly paced but slightly more upbeat and final song, “Gosper Island.” This one has some synth hits intermixed in a slow crescendo crest that picks up the mood as the record washes out in a textural wave of organ and snare.
Sims is growing as an artist. More Than Ever still features his known skill of twisting the political knife on both ends with rapid-fire (and often surprising) personal diatribes that connect the dots, but he’s moving into a new soundscape that changes the pace and the tone. It’s contemplative and a bit ominous. The two styles come together in “Brutal Dance” and “Bad Flying Bird” and it will be curious to see if this is where Sims lands or if he explores.
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