Besides Kanye West and a few others, producers are known to not be able to hold their own behind the mic. Listeners to Timbaland's albums had to dodge and duck Tim's rhymes to hear the cameos he enlisted, and as sick as Madlib is, the beats were the main attraction for his Champion Sound project with Jaylib.
Cryptic One hopes to stand as an exception to the rule. Known as the creator of the dark ambiance behind the sound of his group Atoms Family, his new album The Anti-Morbius Strip Theory gives him a chance to shine as a lyricist as well as a producer, lacing 11 of the disc's 17 tracks.
Cryptic One proves that he's just as good behind the mic as he is behind the boards. Whether he's ranting about the music industry on the album's title track, philosophizing about his "Life After" or spitting vicious battle lines on "Uncomfortable Silence," Cryptic shows a surprising complexity with his lyrics, forcing multiple listens for each track. He even has three conceptual gems on which he educates listeners on how "things go in cycles." Cryptic actually uses this whole album to show his "Anti-Mobius Strip Theory," and his lyrics are so intellectual that a listener could actually put together a term paper on his theory by dissecting the disc track by track. Interestingly enough, he also convinces other producers to accept his philosophy—the three "cycle" tracks are each masterfully orchestrated by Blockhead, he devises "Intricate Schemes" with Blueprint, and Jestoneart contributes beats to two versions of "Pulp Non-Fiction."
Cryptic One confirms that his own production is still top notch as well. He uses thumping bass and creepy keys to paint an "Apocalypse Zone" with Aesop Rock, employs sinister minimalism on "Willow," and utilizes powerful horns and light keys when he teams up with Hangar 18 (MCs Windbreeze and Alaska) on the crew cut "Tempt Fate."
This album's saving grace also produces its potential downfall: since The Anti-Mobius Theory is a concept record, the whole album is held together by its melancholy tone. While this certainly beats albums that just employ all of the time's A-list producers, titles like "Death of Silence," "Rebirth of Regret," and "Uncomfortable Silence" may prove too, well, Cryptic for some listeners. Still though, Cryptic One succeeds in not only making an album that's actually consistent with its concept, but is an interesting listen in the process.
Music Vibes: 8 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8 of 10
Originally posted: July 13, 2004