The title of DC rapper Substantial’s sophomore LP is a bit of a tease. Sacrifice indicates a loss or trade-off of one thing for another, but Substantial spares virtually nothing on the album, establishing himself as a complete MC and bright young talent.
The album kicks off with the low-key jazz vibe “Let It Go,” Substantial’s lyrical manifesto. Words spilling out off-rhythm like a poetry jam, he cuts through the clouds with optimism and wit (“Though I’m often stressed and I fight with depression/I’ve realized life is a lesson/I don’t always like where I’m heading but I write with aggression”). The same be-bop interpolation creeps in on “My Favorite Things” (produced by Definition), a clever concept track that lets Substantial show off his elastic flow and wordplay.
Substantial’s every-man versatility allows Sacrifice to go wherever it likes, and there’s plenty to like here. “Resurrection of the House Party” is exactly what it sounds like: a breezy anthem for sloppy nights around the keg. He can also get introspective over Kno’s soulful production on “It’s You (I Think)” or turn up the swag on “That Damn Good.” Thankfully, strong production from Algorythm and others are able to keep up with the subject matter, most notably the bluesy organs and bass of his hometown tribute “A P.G. Boy,” courtesy of Deacon the Villain.
The only thing holding this album back is a few extraneous tracks. If clipped down to around 11 or 12, Sacrifice could have been even better. But even as it stands, the album is a gem of honest, tight rhymes and dope beats that should get Substantial plenty of attention in the future.
– Martin Caballero