Once in a while a producer comes along that sounds professional. What I mean by that is the music sounds and feels properly engineered and warm on the ears. Meeco is an example of such; a successful and versatile musician that has released everything from acoustic love ballads to throwback jazz, but has spent the last few years honing his hip hop production. It reminds me of the time Adam F, a prominent drum and bass producer of the late 90s, decided to put out a record with heavyweight rappers like LL Cool J and Redman. That record was “Kaos” and it was exceptional for the most part – leaning into the tough anthemic side of the genre with speaker splitters like “Stand Clear” and “Smash Sumthin'”. Something that always stood out to me was how impeccable it sounded from an engineering aspect – it sounded official and is a go-to album for testing headphones. Meeco, much like Adam F, is an international artist (read: not American) whose experience in latin music and jazz really lends his debut album “We Out Here” an edge that few new beatmakers possess.
Maybe it’s a European thing because the German outfit Snowgoons (Meeco is also German) offer up similarly crystal clear aural delights that don’t just get your head nodding but sound decidedly big budget for so-called “underground” music. American duo The Doppelgangaz offers up this style for fans across the pond, and it’s no surprise they have a strong European fanbase too.
2021 has seen some songs with Elzhi (“Back in the Days”), Skyzoo (“Me”) and Lil’ Fame (“Mentality”) that went straight on my playlist. Granted, they are three of my favorite emcees but it shows Meeco can cook up heat for a variety of emcees (and has great taste in rap!). This 2020 album seems to have been slept on by most – I didn’t even hear hardcore hip hop heads mention this record last year. It’s full of veteran 90s emcees so, for the most part, it offers that typically hollow attempt to replicate 90s New York. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean there’s not much here lyrically you haven’t heard before. The reason to check this album out is Meeco’s production.
Smif-n-Wessun kick off with “Stand Up”, channeling the energy they showed on “Stomp” a decade earlier. That Rock hook was incredible so this doesn’t quite hit those heights, but it’s a strong start. Despite a paltry view count on YouTube, Dyce Payne’s single is a welcome change of approach that’s one of the catchier efforts although it’s an odd choice for track two.
Sadat X and El Da Sensei rely on their unique vocal tones to carry a fairly forgettable track (“No Fear”) and you’ve also got A.G. and Big Shug on a couple of underwhelming tracks (“Doing the Impossible” and “King Kong” respectively) that don’t do either any favors. Fame and Termanology’s imposing rhymes mesh well with Meeco on “We Out Here” and I can hear this being chopped up on a grimy DJ set (ie. DJ Eclipse’s show) to great effect. Speaking of which, having Skizz and Grazzhoppa on board for some scratches gives Meeco’s often artificial drums much-needed life.
The Lil’ Fame and Teflon song “Do That” feels like a Fat Joe club banger from the late 2000s but Fame drags Meeco into the streets with his hook. Fame doesn’t receive the credit he deserves for his hooks, particularly without Billy backing him up.
Dyce Payne’s “X Label” falls flat and I imagine many listeners would skip this strange blend of electronic effects and heavy bass. The record then calms down and starts to shine just as it comes to a close, with some of the best songs featuring Baltimore’s Ill Conscious (“The Unsung”) and the ever-dependable Masta Ace (“Pardon Me”). Substantial pulls double duty too, with the collaborative “Gimme That Dope” and the monstrous outro that is “Raise Your Glass”. This is easily Meeco’s best track, boasting them crisp kicks and snares but sees him discover that rare earworm with a guitar lick. Substantial really elevates the track too, using his international experience to toast the various countries around the world he’s rocked. Compared to the rest of the album, it’s the one track that fulfills Meeco’s potential as a proper hip-hop producer.
Meeco’s “We Out Here” clearly didn’t set the world alight, but the improvement he’s shown with his 2021 output means he’s certainly a producer to keep an eye on over the next few years. If you’re tired of the current trend for drumless loops and snoozy emcees, this is a welcome remedy.