Though most people probably didn’t notice, 1996 brought us Sev Statik’s debut in the form of a self-titled EP. Since then, he’s been all over the scene with group albums, singles, and the full-length “Speak Life” in 2002. At the bottom of the discography on his website, in capital letters, the words “DUES PAID! RESPECT DUE!” are inscribed. I couldn’t agree more. Regardless of his commercial success, as well as the quality of his records, someone who has been touring and creating music for so long commands respect. He has been honing his craft in pursuit of perfection for ten years now, and the latest product of his mind is “Slow Burn.”
After so many years on the scene, Sev Statik has developed enough of a rep to attract underground stalwarts like Joey Beats and Shawn J. Period. In fact, the collection of producers is varied both in name and in style. Over the thirteen tracks, there are nine different producers, and the only ones contributing more than one cut are Joey Beats and Relic the Oddity, who hooks up four beats. The title track, a Tony Stone production, comes first with an inspired orchestral sample. It is a completely fitting start to the record, and Sev Statik places himself within the rap world:
“Well, I’m not the new kid on the block, I’ve paid dues
A well-seasoned vet, been around the globe a few times
With the drive of a madman, focused on reality
I let it slide off for the fools that want to challenge me”
Aside from biting Rakim on the song, as everyone somehow manages to do, Sev does not slip up at all on the intro. He comes off as focused and truthful, which is something lacking in plenty of rap music. “Son Come Down” is driven by some of Joey Beats’ dirtiest drums, though Sev’s vocals are a slight step down. His rhyme style is not very complex or unique, so riveting content is a must. At times, he is not descriptive enough to be completely successful, because he doesn’t have other outstanding characteristics.
Track four brings the best song of the record, “Line Life.” Relic’s understated beat has the perfect speed for Sev’s vocals, and he drops a few crystal clear verses that allow us into his mind like nothing else on the album. The line “the money’s so addictive it even brought Mase back” is Sev at his best being simultaneously funny and incisive, dropping a name without being remotely gimmicky. The song is not magnificent, but each element just works really well and the result is a great song.
On the second half, the production slows down a bit to allow Sev to be more introspective, but he doesn’t have enough of a distinctive flow to stand out when his vocals need to be delivered more slowly. There are no weak songs on the entire album, but some of the offerings towards the end leave something to be desired. There are ample flashes of brilliance, but they are balanced with equally ample moments through which Sev seems to be coasting. The production is constantly adequate, but there are no single beats that will make you want to pop the disc in when you’re bored. On a record with a consistently riveting emcee, this would not be a problem, but since Sev is spotty at times, a bit of dragging should be expected in the middle.
The two other high points come toward the end in “Contrast” and the bonus track “Keep an Eye Out.” Neither song will smash through your eardrums, but they are both examples of hip-hop done right, created as it was intended to be in my mind. The productions are restrained but faintly riveting, and Sev Statik recalls what he has been working so hard for in his rhymes, capturing his emotions expertly. Each song on “Slow Burn” has its merits, but these two are especially worthy of a listen.
“Slow Burn” is a solid second effort from Sev Statik, nothing less and rarely anything more. The lack of a true banger or two (mostly from the production side) hurts, because many of the songs are of similar quality without a true rewind-worthy standout. Sev is nice, but achieves no lyrical epiphanies on the record. This record is clearly the work of a veteran, this much is obvious because of the quality of the music. Another unfortunate veteran characteristic that it has is the lack of risk-taking. He doesn’t always have the fire in his belly, something that always seems harder to notice as time goes on in a rapper’s life. Sev has figured out to make satisfactory music, and there isn’t anything wrong with that, but he does not try anything new. The result is that although pleasing across the board, “Slow Burn” is not too memorable. Sev knows how to make good music, and now he should try to manifest the passion that hip-hop clearly gives him in more creative ways. Once he does that, the results will be magnificent. As is, though, this will represent him fine.