Slaine – The King of Everything Else Album Review

Boston-bred MC Slaine has never been shy about his drug- and alcohol-fueled adventures. His latest opus, The King of Everything Else, is a full-length account of those adventures.

The LP is nothing if not cathartic, and for good reason. From the album’s opening track, “No Handouts”, it is made clear that Slaine has a lot of emotional baggage, the probable root cause of years of drug and alcohol abuse. Indeed, brutally honest tales of sex, drugs, and firewater are abundant on The King of Everything Else. Lyrically, the MC’s wordplay is sharp, his storytelling detailed and, at times, darkly comical. The production, for the most part, has an air of orchestrated recklessness, a perfect match for Slaine’s heavy-hearted rhymes. Early standouts include “Dot Ave”, a portrait of the complacency and intoxicated limbo that plagues those hailing from Boston’s Dorchester Avenue, and “Pissed it all Away”, where Slaine predicts his decline into irrelevance, the product of his constant debauchery. On “The Years”, Slaine recounts the years-long cycle that begins with the childhood dream of playing pro baseball. His aspirations quickly shift to being an MC, prompting a move to New York before his addictions inevitably land him back in Boston, fearing for his life. The tale ends with him avoiding a potentially fatal conflict and a reinvigorated desire to hone his craft. Another gem is the Statik Selektah-produced “Our Moment”, which depicts a tumultuous relationship of Slaine’s, one that hits both extremes of the emotional spectrum, but very little in between.

Slaine’s long history of using drugs is a running theme on The King of Everything Else. In fact, one could argue that the album is overly saturated with his dope-fueled shenanigans. In the rapper’s defense, he’s shed light on some of addiction’s many facets. On “Bobby Be Real”, Slaine plays Dr. Jekyll to the doped up “Bobby’s” Mr. Hyde, with Tech N9ne and Madchild aiding in the storytelling. “Dopehead”, featuring Special Teamz cohort Jaysaun, is a portrait of the typical junkie/tweaker, from the raggedy appearance to the never-ending quest for the next fix. The next stop on the drug train is “Come Back Down”, where Slaine, Checkmark and Vinnie Paz look for a permanent oasis from their many hardships, opting to keep desperately chasing that ever-elusive high. Finally, on “Gettin’ High”, produced by La Coka Nostra’s DJ Lethal, Slaine and West Coast MC Demrick each narrate their introduction to their respective poisons of choice.

When considering Slaine’s recent sobriety, The King of Everything Else seems like the ultimate purging of his demons. Underneath the trifecta of vices that is booze, drugs and pussy, the LP is his effort to rid himself of his tempestuous past. With all the soul-baring tales he’s told, if this album doesn’t do it, nothing will.

Grade: 8/10

Gems: No Handouts, Bobby Be Real ft. Tech N9ne & Madchild, Pissed it All Away, The Years, Hip Hop Dummy ft. Apathy & Bishop Lamont, Our Moment, Defiance ft. Rite Hook, Gettin’ High ft. Demrick

Dilated Peoples – Directors of Photography Album Review

While Dilated Peoples were on an eight-year group hiatus, Evidence, Rakaa Iriscience and DJ Babu didn’t remain idle in their solo careers. With their long-awaited fifth album, Directors of Photography, it appears as though their time apart has served them well.

Contrary to their previous efforts, the production was kept mostly in house, a change befitting the album’s title. Evidence and Babu admirably handle the bulk of the duties this time, namely on bangers like “Trouble” and “Hallelujah”. While the number of guest producers is kept to a handful, those enlisted are some of hip-hop’s best. Long-time collaborator The Alchemist sets the stage for Rakaa and Evidence on “Cut my Teeth”, where both MCs recount the many lessons learned from growing up in the Mid-City and Venice areas of Los Angeles, respectively. On the album’s first single, “Good as Gone”, produced by the almighty DJ Premier, Dilated silences the critics and doubters, the inevitable bi-products of their longevity in hip-hop. With “Let Your Thoughts Fly Away”, the group does just that, providing listeners with a mental oasis over a Diamond D beat slightly reminiscent of Mos Def’s “Kalifornia”. But of all the LP’s featured beatsmiths, it’s Seattle’s Jake One that steals the show with “Show me the Way”, in which Dilated treasures not just the success they’ve accrued, but the decades-long grind preceding it.

Lyrically, Rakaa and Evidence have reached a stage affectionately known as “grown man rap.” The days of straight braggadocio are not altogether gone, but the MCs have clearly taken a more personal approach to this album. On a handful of tracks, Dilated waxes poetic about lessons learned (“Cut my Teeth”), living life to the fullest (“Show me the Way”) and enjoying hard-earned success while still wanting more (“The Bigger Picture”). If Directors of Photography has any flaws, it’s that it leaves its audience wanting to know more about said directors. The group takes the listener on a journey unlike those of their previous albums while leaving many questions unanswered. In short, Dilated Peoples, even while artfully venturing into new lyrical territory, are not ready to bare their souls just yet.

In summation, Directors of Photography shows no ill effects of the trio’s long layoff. Five albums into a stellar career, the group is as hungry as they were on their 2000 debut, The Platform. Combining that drive with eight years’ worth of maturation, Dilated Peoples have crafted one of this year’s best LPs.

Grade: 9/10

Gems: Cut My Teeth, Show me the Way ft. Aloe Blacc, Let Your Thoughts Fly Away, Century of the Self ft. Catero, Opinions May Vary ft. Gangrene, Trouble, Hallelujah ft. Fashawn, Rapsody, Domo Genesis, Vinnie Paz & Action Bronson