Underground hip-hop is flooded with emcees and producers trying to bring back the Golden Age, when jazzy production and topnotch storytelling ruled the game. Among the flood is Izmore, two guys from Missouri who blend a bit of the fun with the socially conscious without becoming overly preachy or repetitive. The duo’s debut, Vital, won’t be the album to resurrect the aforementioned time period, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.
Right off the bat, Izmore hooks you in. “Vital,” one of the album’s best, fades in with emcee Les Izmore discussing the current state of hip-hop. With a flow and voice similar to Rhymefest, Les tells his favorite genre that it better not die on him, because he’s got a few tricks up his sleeve.
Les won’t blow you away with his wordplay or metaphors, but the exigency and emotion in his voice are what draw you in. In particular, there’s “That Work,” a track that begins with a snippet from a Chris Rock comedy special in which he talks about slaves who were killed for reading. The chorus that begins with “I’ve got that Malcolm for sale, perfect for the streets, it’s just what the industry needs…” doesn’t sound forced, but sincere.
The other half of the duo, Rich Izmore, is just as capable and matches the emcee’s style very well. When Les is looking to have some fun on the untitled bonus track, Rich brings the perfect jazzy samples to make it one of this summer’s best “lounging” tracks. Then, when Les does some of his best storytelling on the apocalyptic “Something Raw,” Rich gives the lyrics about zombies more urgency with his production.
As a whole, the album tends to stay in the realm of the serious with only a few dips into the “lets have fun” pool. While the stern tone works for the duo, Vital doesn’t stick with you too well after the initial listen. It’s not that the guys needed to make catchy singles or anything like that, but some more engrossing beats and content could have helped. It’s still a solid debut, though, and here’s hoping Izmore keeps at it.