Semi.Official – The Anti-Album

3 out of 5

Label: Rhymesayers

Produced by: ISelf Devine & DJ Abilities

This is DJ Abilities’ show. As slick and bouncy as I Self Devine’s flow can be, it’s Abilities mix-up of scratches and samples and bouncy beats that carries this whole thing through. It’s gotta be telling that I tend to remember the music and not the lyrics from this disc, with my favorite track – the multi-part Nocturnal Terrorist Squad – being mostly instrumental.

But this also does present what amounts to a slight disconnect in this team-up: Abilities’ beats are fun, and Self is often rhyming about heavier subject matter atop. Take Police Assassination Anthem, which has this soulful, almost sultry beat… and then you can guess at the topic. I can’t claim to know how this stuff was composed, but that makes it come across like someone rhyming atop a mixtape, and Self has a pretty aggressive delivery in general that sits oddly against Abilities’ groove. He also has a tendency to overstuff his lyrics without coming to a clear point – so songs are about things in general, but the lack of specifics tends to prevent lyrics from standing out. That’s not the same as being a poor lyricist, for sure – Self spreads out his vocab and hits on some great chorus hooks, just his concepts could probably take some sharpening.

And the flow / beats tonal juxtaposition isn’t always a bad thing: sometimes it hits a perfect blend, the smoothness of the music helping to prop up the lyrical spitfire – I’d say that’s the case when the pace of the track is a bit quicker, or when Self is joined by other MCs who mix up the tempo and flow.

Ultimately, though, I come out of this in love with Abilities, and getting the tunes stuck in my head, but the lyrics tend to be a blur. The production is super rich, making the whole album sound damned catchy, and even if I can’t call out specific lines, Self’s performance is very animated; the whole thing keeps your head bobbing.