Substantial & Burns
Do you remember hip-hop in the early 1990s, when the music industry held lyricism and boom bap to a higher standard? It was an era when artists like Biggie, Nas, and Snoop Doggy Dogg were heard regularly in the mainstream and commercial rap was far better than what is now played. Substantial remembers it too, and has teamed up with Pittsburgh producer Burns on the Substantial/Burns EP to drive listeners down memory lane. What ensues is nothing short of masterful. Burns creates the perfect soundtrack for Substantial to paint pictures about life’s struggles, the challenges of adulthood and the inefficiencies of commercial emcees.
It’s not like the Substantial/Burns album is a dramatic shift from Substantial’s sonic philosophy. Since 2001, the super lyrical Maryland emcee has combined a supreme lyrical delivery, profound content and dope production to create a distinct sound. This album is designed to give fans something new until Substantial releases his third solo album. His debut, To This Union A Sun Was Born, was produced by Japanese hip-hoppers, Nujabes and Monorisick. In 2005, Substantial dropped Sacrifice. This EP sounds exactly like throwback hip-hop, with its heavy reliance on snapping drum kicks, turntable scratches and window-rattling basslines.
The Substantial/Burns EP begins quickly with “It’s Showtime,” a call and response track that shouts out all kinds of cities, states, countries and coasts. “Do What We Gotta,” with its slow, winding production is an instant standout because of the usual great musical vibe between Substantial and singer Kokayi. The title of the song explains it all, as the emcee rhymes about the things people have to do for survival and perseverance. “Logicool,” is easily one of my all-time favorite hip-hop songs. From the subtle horn, the drum kick, to the slight harmony in the background, this song is perfectly crafted for those reflecting upon life. “Miss me with the gossip from the Jet or the Source, need to pick up a copy of your credit report,” Substantial says calmly on the track. “End up broke with no home and irresponsible, but being the opposite is so logicool.” The dark “Nobody Cares” describes the plight of urban youth growing up in the inner city and “The W.W.K.Y.A. Tour” is a bona fide, upbeat posse cut.
If the Substantial/Burns EP is any indication of what’s to come from Substantial, then his fans will eagerly anticipate his next solo album. This 10-song heater is rife with bangers and seamless production. Simply put: This album is grown folks’ hip-hop, but not so stuffy that the youngins won’t appreciate it. The music is universal and a top notch offering from a top-notch emcee.