It’s fitting that hip hop’s most slept on group is releasing an album titled Oneirology. Underground vets, the CunninLynguists’ fifth album is about the study of dreams. Like the group’s magnum opus A Piece of Strange, their latest LP is a narrative-driven, concept record. The narrative is based around the character’s dreams during a night of sleep. While the concept is ambitious and thought-provoking, it would fall flat if it weren’t for Deacon the Villain, Natti and Kno’s ability to craft songs that not only flow perfectly into the next one, but can also stand alone as a great song.
Like any other ‘Lynguists project, you will be blown away by Kno’s production, which is sample-heavy, but also incorporates live instrumentation and synthesizers on many songs, including the 80s inspired “Stars Shine Brightest (In the Darkest of Night).” Kno also shakes pesky sample hounds with the incredible sample-free, “Enemies With Benefits.” The production is so phenomenal, that it’s easy to overlook some great displays of emceeing on this record. Natti, who officially became the group’s third member in 2007, is the show stealer on Oneirology with his dense lyricism and husky vocal delivery. Kno also finds himself on the mic more on this project than in the past, and makes up for vocal limitations with his clever word-play.
Oneirology shows one of hip hops best group’s continuous evolution. While fans will argue that A Piece of Strange is better and Dirty Acres is more accessible, it is clear that the ‘Lynguists’ latest venture shows them at their best. On standout track, “Looking Back” Deacon delivers one of his best verses of his career, “Under the twilight, and we living the Miller Highlife / Le Petite Mort, my lady we bout to die twice.” And the up-lifting “Dreams” is a song that wouldn’t sound too out of place on popular radio.
This record is incredibly thorough, and each listen brings something new the listener. The only (nitpickingly minor) complaint would be the lack of Deacon the Villain singing on hooks. His only singing performance is on the chill-inducing bridge on “Shattered Dreams,” which is one of the best moments on the album. While it’s too early to say this will be the best record hip hop will offer us in 2011, but it’s hard to imagine something topping Oneirology – even in my wildest dreams.