Here is the first album from iii – pronounced “three” – which is effectively a concept album about the man named Stan and a girl called Nicole. This was his debut, which dropped in 2006, and was subsequently followed by “Holidays” – a sophomore effort which received a rather average review on this site. Once of the criticisms was that iii is in fact just an average underground cat with average lyrics. Whilst “The Nicole LP” does little to disprove that theory, the good news is that his debut, as is often the case, provides us with a hungry artist with a point to prove.
The album isn’t incredibly strong, but remains a testament to consistency, mainly owing to a few clever samples, a smatter of strong melodies and some wickedly named songs. “Love Is Gravity” works very well, and the marvelously titled “I Don’t Need A Polygraph Test” is amongst the albums highs, and certainly the opening third of the album is actually surprisingly strong. True, iii’s lyrics aren’t life changing, his vocal delivery is unremarkable and the subject matter can overwhelm. But the unifying concept – the story of his relationship, chronicled from start to finish – coupled with a few excellent melodies help to at least make this compelling background music.
This is clearly meant to be an abstract mish-mash of various genres and styles, and he frequently slips his grungy hat on when pausing from hip hop, then changes into another totally different vibe. At a guess, his target audience isn’t going to be primarily made of intense hip hop heads – rather those that take to different genres of music, flexing their indie/rock muscles in conjunction with music more relevant to this site. A song such as “She Says That I’m Lush” would be well received on most stages, and the intimate comedown of “Your Not There In The Morning” is the one track on the album that I repeated for a day non-stop.
The album isn’t going to be everybody’s cup of tea, but perhaps that is precisely what iii is going for. Last week I reviewed iii’s label-mate Nacirema – who, again, was slightly atypical but dealt in more “traditional” hip hop. Either way, both artists are left-of-centre – and variety is what keeps hip hop alive. A fairly strong debut with a concept followed through meticulously and a couple of highlights – sometimes that is good enough.