What do you do if you’ve got potholes in your lawn? Fill ’em in. In all seriousness though it’s RapReviews who needs the bag of soil, because we’ve got an eight year gap of NOT covering Robust, and I personally want to apologize to the artist in question for that. Despite having an archive of thousands of reviews, Robust’s 2004 Chicago classic “Potholes in Our Molecules” slipped through the cracks, and in the interim none of his other independent releases was covered either. As a measure of penance, here’s a sample of that debut album.
“Fillin in the Potholes” is a spiritual sequel to that album that goes by far too fast at only 45 minutes long, getting off to a very fast start on the 2:22 long title track. The news snippets included in the song mock an epidemic of potholes on Chicago’s city streets, but it’s just a set-up for the metaphor of Robust’s quest for success. “Yo I’m tired of potholes/my tires have got holes/drivin on the rocks, puttin fires to hot coals/bros been callin me back/gold just falls in my lap/roses grow too close to call, the laws of the track.” His topic matter spans more than just his own quest for success. “Tortured Soul” is a frank portrait of poverty and failure with a note of hope weaved throughout yearning to rise above it all through mic skills. “Loop Dreams” is a song of lust, though he’s got equal measure for hip-hop and the girls “under the moonlight at night when the freaks come out.” He tries to break the mold of nostalgia tracks on “Remember When” with the words “This isn’t just another beat for me to rap to/it’s the feeling you once had, I bring you back to it.” Now that’s word.
Robust has enlisted a slew of different producers to bring “Potholes” to fruition including Max, Meaty Ogre, Pore, PNS, Maker and Jackson Jones among others. Despite that there’s a note of frustration in Robust’s voice over these dope beats on songs like “How Ya Livin” when he says “My album’s so good, but I’m ’bout to go wood/my flow’s bad to the bone and I’m up to no good.” He’s not exaggerating about the flow, which takes me back to the whole “My bad we didn’t cover Robust sooner” tip. He’s got that naturally laid back flow that so many fellow Chicago greats like Common have, although his pacing and vocal tone are eerily reminiscent of a Styles of Beyond record, so it can be said that he’s a blend of the best of both. This makes “Fillin in the Potholes” an unexpected and genuine pleasure to listen to, so now I need to go back and fill in my OWN potholes.