Skewby - More or Less

Posted January 19, 2011
Tags: Skewby,

For a music that holds onto the concept of “realness” so tightly, hip-hop is very rarely...

More or Less Album Review

For a music that holds onto the concept of “realness” so tightly, hip-hop is very rarely real. Putting aside those whose tales of drug kingpin grandeur and private jet flights border on psychiatrically diagnosable delusion, we still only hear a small sliver of reality in even the realest of raps. We get the successes, but not the insecurities that had to be overcome to succeed, the loves and lusts, but not the fleeting crushes, the momentous events but not the Sunday afternoon spent day dreaming. If a rapper ever let us hear their entire life, in all its highs, lows and mediums, we’d finally have a rapper who could claim to pen the realest s**t ever wrote.

Thankfully, really real (no really) rap is making a comeback, riding high on the recent successes of all-encompassing emcees like XV and Big K.R.I.T. We can now add Skewby to that list. A Memphis emcee with the talent and courage to simply be himself, Skewby’s More or Less could easily serve as a blueprint for keeping it real. From an eclectic beat selection to rhymes about everything from his struggle to succeed to his relationships, or lack thereof, with the fairer sex, to listen to More or Less is to know Skewby. The real Skewby.

Thankfully I don’t have to search hard to find evidence to back up those lofty claims – look no further than the second verse of Everyday, where Skewby breaks down the damned if you do, damned if you don’t reality of young rappers with a rare precision and concision: “When I get a deal, and crossover appeal, they’ll probably tell me this the kind of verse I’m lacking.” The open and honest look inside the mind of a striving artist is certainly nothing new, but throughout More or Less Skewby lets us into other facets of his life, from the temptations surrounding a luscious, but empty, female on LaLa to the pressures of rising above the average in an age when everyone’s a rapper on the bouncing Book of Eli, Skewby reveals a complicated and complex person who’s simultaneously battling materialism and embracing it. Most rappers seem convinced that their average listener has the IQ of a concussed Kat Stacks; it feels good to hear a project that not only relates, it challenges. Or, in the words of the man himself, “I see a problem and I laugh till I choke / My future make me love my past even more.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

As engaging as the lyrical content is, it’d be impossible to truly talk about More or Less without talking about the production. Although nearly ten different producers contribute beats to the project, they cohere so closely it’s hard to tell where one style ends and the other begins. Although more established beatsmiths like 9th Wonder provide their trademark beats (in the case of 9th on the soulfully smooth Authentic) it’s actually the production work of Skewby himself and Go Judo that impressed me the most; the duo have blended indie rock and hip-hop more organically then anything I can remember hearing. Title track More or Less revolves around a lightly distorted guitar then explodes into a sparkling, jangling chorus of notes, while companion cut Lost and Found’s acoustic core and sharply clapping percussion create an aura of mellow seriousness. And while Must Have is the project’s most traditionally hip-hop beat (it uses the same sample found on Pharoah Monch’s Soundbombing classic The Mayor), the aggression is always subdued, filtered with more soulful elements. In an era when albums are often nothing more than collections of singles, Skewby deserves props for turning More or Less into a sonic landscape.

The albums that become part of our lives, that we continue to come back to months, years and even decades after we first hear them, not only sound good, they create a world, a place for you to live inside for a few minutes. While More or Less is, in many ways, far from a perfectly polished product, it does succeed because Skewby paints his world so vividly and then let’s us stand inside it, examining it from every angle. Not everyone’s capable of pulling off such a musical feat; it takes talent, and dedication, and vision and, beyond all else, a commitment to the truth, even when you wish the truth was something else. Long live real rap. Long live Skewby.

Download "More or Less" Directly

DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins

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Posted January 19, 2011
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