"My name alone will tell you I'm lyrically advanced." Truer words were never spoken than on Mr. Complex's opening song "Bomb Threats," the first salvo in a war on rap entitled "Hold This Down."
Complex's reputation in underground rap dates back to 1995, when he released the seminal cut "Against the Grain" to establish his unconventional rep. Since then he continued to make noise over the years with singles like the DJ Spinna produced "Why Don't Cha", the Pharoahe Monche produced "Divine Intervention" and the Rawkus Records release "Stabbin' You" backed with "Gitcha, Gitcha, Gitcha" featuring Monch himself. Obviously Complex can't just settle for offering singles to the masses and making cameos on other people's records (like underground favorites J-Live and Natural Elements) - Complex is ready to go for broke with his full length debut album.
There's no mistaking his hunger for bigger thangs when you hear banging tracks like "Underground Up." Interestingly on the promotional album version of this track, Complex politely asks people to e-mail him if anybody hears the track on bootleg before his release date. That's refreshing in and of itself - no obnoxious noises throughout the song or many repeated admonishments to go buy the album yelled over the vocals. It's easy to see why people would want to lift this track though, with a beat sounding like classic early Organized Konfusion - with the deja vu of this being doubled by a clever Richard Pryor sample. Peep the writtens Complex be spittin':
"Here you go, there you go, you know you gotta get
outta my face quicker than that
He's vomiting all over the place, he's about to die
but note that I'm, lyrically sicker than that
I need bed rest - I'm a Queens cat with a Brooklyn address
with a queen size mattress
where I do more fuckin than sleepin on it
See I'ma never fall off, see I be, keepin on it"
If you find yourself pressing rewind as you listen to the aptly named Complex, it should be no surprise. The pleasant thing about Complex is that although his lyrical fluctuations may be adept, he himself is not hard to understand. A clear diction and a vocal tone with the grimyness of Canibus and a vocal pitch between LL and Keith Murray, his raps exhibit professional breath control that leaves not a word slurred. Thus if you find yourself wondering if Complex is actually saying "Rap City" on the song "Rhapsody" it's not because he's unclear - it's because he uses it as a double entendre on PURPOSE to cleverly build a nation of hip-hop artists into a series of crisscrossing avenues and streets. Comedy is a strong part of the Com in Complex too, as witnessed not only by his punchlines but by the ill inappropriate attempts to sing on his skit "The Definition of Complex" or his beatdown of a hardcore poseur rap artist on "Put Your Head by the Speaker." You'll catch repeated smiles from songs like the piano snappy "The Day Your Ass Got Ignited" and the smoothed out funk of "Make Sure That it Counts" as Complex adds the fire that completes the beats.
The wit never stops for Complex, making the promo version of this album a true collector's item when he quips "If you got this, you're a special person - yes you are, yes you are" as a vocal insert at the beginning of "Stupid Dope Fresh" featuring Eridotcom. Who with a heart could rip this guy off? I hope that nobody bootlegs this - and that anybody who hears his e-mail address on a track will be sure to report it back to him. The charm and charisma of 'Plex on laid back tracks like "Accumulation" can even make the normally uninteresting underground rappers like guest Shabaam Sahdeeq come up to a whole new level. This album even comes with three bonus tracks - his previously released single "I'ma Kill It", the aforementioned "Divine Intervention" and a version of "Stabbin You" recorded live in Belgium. Without the help of any superstar rap producers like DJ Premier, Alchemist, or Just Blaze, Mr. Complex has a full length album as hot as any seen in recent memory on the East coast. He may be the most appropriately named rapper since Lord Finesse, and just as equally deserving of greater recognition both in AND outside the world of hip-hop. Not one to keep all his eggs in one basket, he is also directing and filming music videos - so one way or another you WILL be hearing more about Mr. Complex in the future. But please, buy the album - you won't regret it. Just make sure it's not a promo!
Music Vibes: 8 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 9 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8.5 of 10
Originally posted: November 6, 2001