Drop this in the changer and prepare to exhale as refreshing hip-hop bounds out of the speakers, propelled by melodic beats, a soulful sensibility and underground pride, courtesy of up and coming producers Symbolyc One and IllMind. The former is the mastermind behind one of the freshest underground groups, the Strange Fruit Project, while IllMind has worked with the likes of Bahamadia, Organic Thoughts, Common, Little Brother and others.
The potential of these underground heavyweights is more than fulfilled on this collaborative effort. Their combined sound is sublimely addictive. Perhaps one of the best examples is the opener, “Been Gone” featuring Strange Fruit Project. An immediate standout track, “Been Gone” features soulful, uplifting production adding new flavor to an oft-heard lament about the state of hip-hop, but the vocal hook and optimistic tone lifts the track into a new dimension. Guest MCs are diverse, ranging from Little Brother and Supastition to Ghostface Killah, Organic Thoughts and The Procussions. All bring their own flavour to the proceedings and are appropriately matched to the tracks, serving to highlight the producers’ skills and versatility. Little Brother shines on “Right Here” over a soulful, funky flavor, while “Guilty Pleasures” takes a break from the usual underground anthem subject matter, as Kenn Starr and Thesis takes a realistically conflicted look at the unfolding of an affair between 2 already-taken participants. On “High Powered”, The Procussions finesse their spiritual-not-preachy approach.
The interludes which feature the producers talking about their styles and how they collaborated are interesting at first but quickly become skippable. Other than that the album flows well, mixing up styles from the super-soulful “Night Like This” featuring the vocals of Darien Brockington as well as Big Pooh, alongside the backpacker style jams like “Hands Off” and “The Broke Song”. Production is rich and detailed throughout, revealing a true meshing of styles and a seemingly natural collaboration.
The Art of OneMind is definitely one of my favourite hip-hop releases of the year, if not the past couple of years and with its ultra-fresh sound, its staying power in your changer will outlast most. Definitely one to seek out.
Download “The Broke Song” at music.download.com