I made a resolution that if I only got through one review this week it would be something important and meaningful. Not-so-coincidentally that’s exactly what motivates Boston area rap stars Akrobatik and Mr. Lif – a “Resolution” to not do anything that isn’t both meaningful and musical. They consistently deliver quality hip-hop whether individually or when they link up to form the rap supergroup known as The Perceptionists. This has required no shortage of perseverance over the years, as indie rap stardom isn’t necessarily a road paved with gold, and even if you could find such a road prying those bricks up and carrying them would be heavy as f–k. On top of that Akrobatik survived a ruptured heart valve in 2011 that almost ended his life and not just his career. It wouldn’t be hard to argue that hardened his resolve to continue making music that matters, even though it would also be as cliche as me working the title of their newest album into this introductory paragraph.
Perhaps I’m just proving that Akrobatik and Lif are better writers than I am and I’m perfectly okay with that after listening to songs like “Free At Last” featuring Syne, masterfully produced by Synesthetic Nation. The combination of melodic piano, heavy bass, pounding drums and guitar licks makes my own heart beat a little faster, and the thoughtful rhymes of the dynamic duo are as sharp as at any point in their long careers.
Mr. Lif: “I’m writing to you from a bomb shelter
I’m talking to you from my calm center
It’s that feeling when you’re f—in’ with the wrong venture
But you’re in too deep to walk
Every day you fear a bullet make your heart stop
Talk not of woes and foes that come to get ya
The music is the only thing to help relieve the pressure
So you lose yourself in it, ’til life is infinite
Til you’re immortalized, legacy fortified”
Akrobatik: “In my neighborhood, poverty is still the majority
The streets are patrolled by unfamiliar authority
This… prison industrial complex
sets the pathway for us to go from being students to convicts
So we hang in clusters, many become hustlers
We trust nobody and nobody can trust us
Typecast as criminals that’s menacing
So we still get followed around the store even when weÕre innocent”
Proving their versatility beyond the lyrical, Mr. Lif also produces the aptly named “Dirty Drumz,” a track that definitely lives up to the billing in a way that reminds me pleasantly of late 1980’s and early 1990’s hip-hop. It’s like hearing early RZA beats before he got a little TOO slick and polished. The other end of the spectrum is the extra smooth Willie Evans Jr. laced “Early Mourning,” but both are equally lovely thanks to the flows. Ak and Lif have an ideal balance as partners. Lif has a subtle syncopated flow that at first seems a bit computerized, but that only causes you to focus more intently on his delivery and what he has to say. Akrobatik wears his emotions on his sleeve by comparison but is not overwrought to the point he fails to make his points on tracks like the Chop laced “Out of Control.”
There are certain albums that are skillfully enough composed and produced that they leave you wanting more when they are done. “Resolution” is certainly one of them because 36 minutes hardly feels like enough. With the haunting ivories of the title track saved for the album’s finale, Akrobatik manages to sum the project up nicely: “So now I/m coming with that hardcore work ethic/It’s worth the effort/From mistakes come experience/and from experience comes wisdom.” That wisdom is painted into every beat and bar of “Resolution” until the canvas is a true work of art.