In fact, all this week Lo has been profiled by KevinNottingham with a ton of great content, including an interview with Binary Star about Masters of the Universe, audio commentary by Lo on his favorite tracks, Lo’s announcement of his new group The Autocons, and much more. Christmas seriously came early. Check it out, and as always, stay tuned to The (new) Beest.
I knew nothing of One Be Lo’s latest record, Labor, until the day before it was set to release. Spotted a tweet, of all things, mentioning that the record was scheduled to drop the next day. Talk about being blindsided. The moment midnight, September 6th hit I was F5-ing his Bandcamp like a madman, waiting for the record to drop.
Now, I’ve covered Lo at least three times before on the ‘Beest. Two tracks from his incredible 2005 record S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M. and a joint with fellow Michigan emcee Senim Silla as part of the duo Binary Star, from their classic record Masters of the Universe. Lo is seriously one of my most favorite emcees of all time. and I mean that in a Kanye-esque “all time.” What makes Lo awesome to me is that he’s an intelligent emcee with a lot to say and a lot of wisdom, yes, wisdom, to impart to listeners. As well, he’s a fantastic rhymer with his intricate wordplay and a knack to create rhymes which will have you repeating two or three times to fully get it. I fell quite hard for S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M., a terrific record on all counts, and began the long, long wait for new content (I wasn’t crazy about ‘07’s The Rebirth).
And now that I have Labor in my…er, well, on my hard drive and MP3 player, and been listening and re-listening for nearly a week now, I am floored. The record is an excellent follow up. Lo hasn’t been resting on his laurels these past four years as Labor stacks up well to his previous work. Lyrically, he still can craft some very complex lines and his content still concerns life, spirituality, and many social and personal issues, which he handles with candor and a certain sense of wariness, like he’s already lived through every minute of it. Musically, he’s made a large jump from the understated beats of S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M., as the production here is bigger, bolder, and more lively than before. Lo’s back indeed, and he is kicking ass.
Now, to pick a specific song? That was tough, but “Ox y Moron” appealed to me from the first play. Following the album’s concept of tracks based around animals of the Zodiac, “Ox” speaks about money, often a contemptuous element in Lo’s songs, but here Lo speaks about money’s effect on people, especially people who had nothing before. It’s a wild listen, as Lo paints hilarious examples of money’s effect. The beat is defiant, made even better by the guest vocals and the wonderful Eddie Murphy samples. Welcome back, Lo.
Perfection in less than two minutes, this song neatly covers the reason why I’m such a big fan of One Be Lo.
A former knucklehead, Michigan emcee One Be Lo (or One Man Army) decided to change his life after a stint in prison, so he picked up a mic…and you should be damn happy he did. Along with his good buddy, Senim Silla, they formed a duo known as Binary Star and released a fantastic all-rap, no bull record with Masters of the Universe. In 2005, he released his grand opus S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M., one of my all-time favorite records, jammed full of intelligent tracks with solid production and some outright brilliant rhymes. It’s a record I keep coming back to, because Lo is a dude who has passion for what he does and a strong desire to teach and inspire change.
“Oggie” is an incredible example, as Lo speaks about a friend lost to violence. Over a slick bassoon loop, Lo spits a single, poignant verse, and in that short ninety seconds you are witness to anger, remorse, confusion, and sadness, but as well, knowledge of self, empowerment, and perseverance. This is a masterful track, and those final lines never fail to captivate:
Once dumb now I got a lot to say Once blind now I focus on the world today Don’t think you got +wisdom+, life’ll pull your teeth I got peeps in the dirt from some bullshit beef Walkin’ a straight path these last days is even steeper Action inflated, talk is even cheaper You dig it? We livin’ in holes that’s gettin’ deeper The more niggaz grin the more the Grim Reaper…
Invincible and Waajeed - “Detroit Summer / Emergence”
Growing up in Canada I used take family trips to Windsor, right across from the American city of Detroit. It was a yearly thing, a four-hour car ride from Toronto to the city and we would chill for a few days, traveling around the rather quaint (in comparison to T.Dot) streets, making the pilgrimage to Tunnel BBQ (best ribs, man, no lie), relaxing in the beautiful riverside parks near the Ambassador Bridge, and admiring the casinos from the outside with my mom while my pops blew his cash inside. I always marveled at the sight of the city across the river though, Detroit, so very foreign and kind of imposing, with it’s older buildings, factories, and the prominent all-glass tower of the Renaissance Center. We never usually went over there, but one year, my parents decided to make the excursion stateside.
Detroit was a hell of a city. I was about 10 years old or so, but driving around downtown Detroit felt odd. The place was lifeless, cold, and the streets were quiet and rather devoid of people. We passed a few condemned factories and run down buildings, and the whole vibe of the place just felt…off. It was a far cry from the other city across the river and a trip I’ll always remember.
That’s why I have a lot of respect for Invincible. Hailing from Detroit, she’s a solid emcee and a dedicated activist, working tirelessly to bring attention to the plight of the Motor City and helping to get it back on it’s feet. My introduction to her was on this track right here. Collaborating with beatmaker Waajeed of the Detroit hip-hop/R&B group Platinum Pied Pipers, “Detroit Summer” is a fantastic tribute to the city, as Invincible lives up to her name, spitting about the essence of Detroit and letting us all know that the D certainly isn’t dead, so don’t give up on it. The beat, thanks to Waajeed, knocks like all hell, with those thumping drums and ominous piano key drops. The switch-up towards the end, with the second half known as “Emergence,” ain’t bad either, as Invincible calls out to youth and pledges the birth of a new era. A terrific track.
Apollo Brown (feat. Big Pooh and Black Milk) - “Hungry”
In keeping with the latest hip-hop releases here on the Wildebeest, tonight’s post is about the producer Apollo Brown, whose eagerly awaited instrumental album Clouds dropped yesterday.
This post is not from that record, though.
Coming outta Michigan, Apollo (like the Greek god or the famed boxer [R.I.P.]) is a highly sought-after beatmaker well known on the underground circuit. A promising producer, Apollo’s beats are a modern take on the boom-bap sounds of ’90s. Short, sweet, and always banging, Apollo’s sounds have brought out many a notable rapper, and on his 2010 effort The Reset, he brought onboard guests such as the Diamond District (where the hell’s March on Washington?), Magestik Legend, Pete Rock’s underrated bro Grap Luva, and on this track, fellow celebrated MI producer (and rapper) Black Milk, and one-half of Little Brother, Big Pooh.
The Reset really has its moments, and “Hungry,” the first song on the album, is one of them. Loud and proud, “Hungry” is a simple but damn triumphant beat, a real aural takeover. Big Pooh and Black Milk step up to the badass instrumental and put in some great lines, full of swagger and this slick, “don’t worry, we got this shit handled“-mentality. It’s a welcome worthy of a god, pretty much.
A binary star is actually not one star, but two, which revolve around each other so closely that to observers they are like one.
Funny, this song taught me more about that than an entire semester of college astronomy.
Binary Star is the duo of One Be Lo, A.K.A OneManArmy, and Senim Silla, two emcees hailing from Pontiac, Michigan, and the title couldn’t be more fitting. The duo united under the goal of making real rap, focused on skill, substance, and avoiding the vapid, senseless excesses which pervaded current hip-hop music culture: Guns, money, and the endless, talking-loud-saying-jack-shit mentality. The duo originally met in a Michigan correctional facility, and realized that they both could rhyme and carried the same feelings about hip-hop. After their release, they quickly got to work, and with a paltry 500 bucks, recorded their debut.
Waterworld hit in 1999, and became an underground sensation in the Michigan rap scene. It caused enough buzz for the group to re-release it the next year as Masters of the Universe.
With the 2001-esque album cover, complete with a monolithic microphone, Senim and Lo indicated that Masters of the Universe was the arrival of something monumental.
And trust me, listening to this record is like that intro scene in 2001 where the apes discover tools: Afterwards, nothing is the same.
Masters of the Universe is a fantastic listen. Thoughtful, passionate, and very well spoken, Lo and Senim are deep thinkers, concerned with the state of hip-hop and current black culture. Every word rapped and every beat utilized is carefully chosen and nothing on the record is careless or an afterthought. As well, the two have perfect chemistry, coming together like He-Man and Battlecat to deliver decisive rhymes.
“Conquistadors” is one of several songs on Masters which I’m really enjoying. Those horns, man! Those freaking horn flourishes are simply unstoppable, giving you the feeling that the two have arrived to conquer the whole damn planet. It’s a complete knockout track.
While Senim and Lo have gone their separate ways since Masters, they are just as strong apart as they are together. Remember, two stars. One Be Lo in particular is rap’s premiere unsung emcee, his album S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M. is a masterful record, one I can’t get enough of (and I’ll be speaking about it real soon, trust me).
Like the sample at the beginning of the track declares: ”It’s a new day, motherfuckers.”