I know it’s only February, but expect Absolute Value to be one
of the hardest hitting, most thought provoking albums to drop all year.
Fans of Akrobatik can expect his sharpest performance to date, while
those still unfamiliar with this Bostonite can at least anticipate the
incredible guest list.
The album starts out hard with “A to the K,” a track fueled by a
relentless hook courtesy of Cypress Hill’s B-Real. This also marks the
first of four tracks laced by Illmind. The next joint slows things down
a little with a classic BDP sample hooked up this time by the legendary
Beatminerz. Moving along, a chaotic J Dilla beat provides the arena for
Ak’ and Talib Kweli to trade tag-team rhymes on “Put Ya Stamp On It”. A
few tracks later, a reunited Little Brother pops up to continue what
Phonte started on Black Dialogue. Not only do all three emcee’s
kill it, but 9th proves once again to be that dude. “Black Hell Breaks
Loose,” is another highlight, and features (the seriously, seriously
dope) Willie Evans Jr., and Therapy rhyming over some funky oboes
hooked up by the latter. Other notable guest spots include a joint with
Bumpy Knuckles, and of course The Perceptionists unite on “Beast Mode”
to remind us why they formed a group in the first place.
While Akrobatik can brag and talk jive with the best of them, just as on Black Dialogue, his finest moments on Absolute Value
come when he gets political. He’s got a passion and serenity to his
voice that makes tracks like “Kindred,” a song that draws parallels
between slavery and FEMA’s inaction in New Orleans, truly moving. It
doesn’t hurt either that the song is narrated by Chuck D. Similarly,
the peak of the album has got to be “Front Steps Pt. II (Tough Love).”
I wish I had a less corny way to say this, but that track embodies all
that is good and pure about hip hop. While the needle scratches Deck’s
now classic line, watch Akrobatik “kick the truth to the young black
youth” line after line in one of the most earnest and heartfelt songs
in recent memory.
It’s no wonder he claims to be “the biggest thing to come out of Boston since ‘I Got to Have it.'”
– M. Steve Hammer