May 27, 2016

Review: The Silent Partner - @mobbdeephavoc & @Alchemist; A Niles P. Joint

When a new project is announced but not yet released, as a writer you let your imagination wander a bit.  Is your favorite emcee or group going to break new ground?  Will it be innovative or pandering to the new kids?  Will they maintain quality or sacrifice style for substance?  When I heard Havoc and The Alchemist were putting out a joint album called The Silent Partner, I immediately knew what time it was.  I wasn’t going to be sold a false bill of goods, I’m getting violent ass lyrics over brooding beats.  That’s each man’s calling card, especially when Al works with either or both members of Mobb Deep.  But in this case, even if you have the game plan figured out ahead of time, there can be a real beauty in sticking to the script.  

This album is well structured, first of all.  The duo keeps it light and only has three guest appearances, all from legends.  Naturally, Prodigy showed up for some gun talk on The Gun Holds a Drum.  Going over 20 years strong and the Mobb still has it on lock.  Elsewhere, Buck 50’s & Bullet Wounds renews a musical alliance with the Wu, in this case it’s Method Man.  Over a dirty piano and ghastly choir, the dudes from the legendary crews put fear in the hearts of wack/soft rappers.  For the conclusion Hear Me Now, Havoc doesn’t even have to leave Queensbridge for a guest verse.  Cormega is the best in the business when it comes to introspective raps and that’s the nature of this song.  They tag team the hell out of it and close the album out on a thoughtful note.

While he has his own legendary chops as a producer, Havoc turns it over to Alchemist for the entirety of the project.  I’d assume it would be somewhat tough as a producer to surrender the boards entirely to someone else.  But The Alchemist and Mobb Deep are close and you can tell that there’s a mutual trust there.  And Al doesn’t disappoint.  While he’s known for his darker & grittier instrumentals, he manages to have some lighter ones mixed in.  Maintain (Fuck How You Feel) was the first single; it’s built around a soulful sample that is actually kind of upbeat.  Out The Frame has chimes reminiscent of your grandmother’s music box and a lurking piano.  Of course Havoc lays down some hardcore bars over both of these songs, bringing forth an interesting disparity.  Later on, the pair makes some Smooth Ride Music which has a terrific mix of cuts and scratches, a scant bongo, some keyboard work, and a lone saxophone.  The backbone is the bullying bassline which takes place of traditional percussion.  This song should preferably be listened to after 9pm only.

As a rapper, Havoc has often been overshadowed by his brother in arms Prodigy.  P has had a gaggle of solo releases over the years while Hav’s greatness is usually mentioned when it comes to his production.  So it’s good to see the silent partner put out a solid album with a talented friend/producer who can match his grit musically.  Neither steps too far outside of their comfort zone, instead sticking to what’s worked for decades.  The Carhartt & constructs crew (think hardcore East Coast heads) will undoubtedly love this one.  It goes for a traditional sound without being at all stale and keeps things trim at 11 tracks.  While some may like more experimentation in their raps, you get what you pay for here.  There’s a real comfort in simplicity and tradition, and Havoc and The Alchemist bring out the best in each other on this album.  It’s dark but fun in a mischievous way, a soundtrack for when you're up to no good.  As an ending note, The Alchemist has now fully produced solo albums for both Havoc and Prodigy.  We can only hope now for an Alchemist-produced Mobb Deep album.  If and when it happens, you know what to expect, and you’ll love it.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Multimedia Journalist, Founder and Chief Editor of WTM Host of A-Side B-Side Podcast and more. I like to talk about stuff and write it down. Sometimes to a microphone. Either way, I need you to feel this.

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