5 out of 5
Produced by: Aesop Rock
With all respect to Ant and Slug, I’ve often found that the MC of that duo works better when paired with other producers, and especially when paired with a vocalist off of which he can play his rhymes and patter. Ant’s soulful, organic beats can be amazing, but the subtlety he brings to his work requires a more dynamic vocalist, and when Slug sinks in to the laid back flow Ant’s pacing generally promotes, his sharpest rhymes are subject to a slower, monotone delivery that tends to make me zone out over the course of an album.
So: give us the digital edge and rock-geared sensibilities of Aesop Rock as a producer, and Felt’s third outing – Felt being Slug and the incomparably slick and smart Murs – and everything is there for success, encouraging the former MC to be continually hyped up and the latter kept in a similarly playful mood by the partnership. This all balances out to a damned stunning work of nonstop dense, impressive tunes and slick, memorable and catchy lyricism. The album’s 21 tracks can be split between the usual Rhymesayers / DefJux topics: boast tracks; touring and life narratives; and social commentary, rather perfectly sequenced to swing between the three so we never feel in a rut. While Rock occasionally stops a song short at its conclusion, the short instrumental stitching from track to track ultimately makes things seamless; better, he provides an intra-song level of growth that’s rare for hip-hop, moving beyond chorus and verse hooks and actually including bridges and extra flourishes throughout, making the thought of an instrumental of this album desirable. To the lyrics, Felt 3 is interestingly sequenced: it all starts out pretty straight forward, with a couple of opening hype tracks and then some narratives on topics we’ve frankly heard before, but about a third of the way through – Ghost Dance Deluxe, an interesting relationship metaphor – things get sharp, and consistently surprising, whether being silly (Henrietta Longbottom) or deadly serious (Deathmurdermayhem). ‘Sop’s works becomes tighter with this focus, and any initial sense of playing around is shed: the large brunt of this album is some of the greatest work Felt, and Slug, have done.
Hour+, 21-track hip-hop albums generally come with their share of filler. Sketches, repeated beats. Felt 3, even when doing toss-off joke tracks like Get Cake, offer up such affecting catchiness and aural kookiness that they’re required parts of the album; I skim through for more memorable tracks and find myself listening to each one in full, as not only does each song tend to catch your ear from the outset, but the disc rewards as an end-to-end listen, narrowing down looser ideas and beats into laser-focused awesomeness as it goes along.