What's in a name? When you have a firm conviction of your own abilities, nothing seems impossible. Like Popeye needs his spinach, musicians need that conviction when they are doing their bid in that tough marriage of art and finance. But if you call yourself Belief, your own label Worker B Records, and your debut "Dedication," stakes is high.
Belief's credentials are a treasure every underground producer would cherish. Like most, he started out polishing his craft in his bedroom when he was still in high school. He was fortunate enough to find himself walking the same hallways as 'beat Gandalf' Eligh, and the more well-known mischievous mockingbird Murs. Belief moved to New York to further improve his musical skills at NYU, but never lost sight of his West Coast roots. He ended up doing multiple songs for Murs' Definitive Jux debut "The End Of The Beginning," but also produced for East Coast underground jewel Jean Grae. With an abstract style with firm roots in funky breaks, Belief wants to make the world believe people should take notice, and dedicate their ears to his Worker B beats.
"Dedication" should be the next step in that direction. The front cover of the promo pressing depicts the bearded Belief, flanked by his own 'Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse' Wordsworth, Vordul Mega, Murs, and C Rayz Walz. With an additional guest spot by Andre The Giant (AG), you have the cream of the crop, perhaps even an underground match made in heaven.
Too bad this album sounds like it was made by someone who seemingly did his recording in the unfathomable depths of limbo. The funkiness on "The End Of The Beginning" has been traded in for moody music with an elusive dissonance, and almost ghostlike features. At times, Belief's music, made me think of a Stephen King short story slash television show, called "The Langoliers." In this story, an unfortunate group of airline passengers travelling from coast to coast, wake up to find themselves in a world that has travelled on. What is left is an environment stripped of colour, taste, and most importantly: vibrant sound. Without saying "Dedication" is devoid of all liveliness, like the world of Langoliers, it does miss the vivid persuasiveness necessary for a producer to make his mark.
Belief's style is definitely no copycat's, but his beats does have tangent planes to Aesop Rock's production board bad boy Blockhead. The steady producer of MC Aesop, however, has mastered the ability to create a private realm of forgotten vintage melodies, which completely engulfs the listener. On songs like the instrumental "Passion Agression" or "Getyourmindright," featuring Murs and AG, it is possible to fully enjoy the musical journey he wants to take you on. For the remainder, one have to settle for glimpses of that great view. Belief's drums are unsteady, and lack impact. His samples are sometimes fascinating, and sometimes downright annoying. The instrumental track "Worker B" spawns electrically charged snares and a gripping roller coaster drum pattern, and is arguably one of the better songs on the album. "Justice," on the other hand, with Vordul Mega and C-Rayz Walz on the track, features slowed down reggae vocals with dragging electronic melody surges, which distract from the vocals.
The effect on the MC's performance is obvious. Wordsworth's normal in-your-face style of rhyming sounds shakey on "Hot Nights," which also features Vordul Mega. His gloomy analysis of society on "Runs The World" sounds uninspired and generic. C-Rayz Walz provides rock-bottom on the echoing "Goin Hard" with the line: "I feel like jelly, butter, and cream cheese." The only lyricist who comes through with flying colours is Belief's old high school buddy Murs. He is featured on five songs, and performs well on most them. "The Fountainhead (I Know '06)" brings back some of the laid back funk fusion this duo has achieved in the past, where Murs does he does what he does best: talk women.
It seems Belief is still searching for a sound that fits him like a glove. Maybe the man behind Worker B Records is just trying too hard to gain critical acclaim in the tough hip-hop game. "Dedication" left me with a lot of mixed feelings, but I, for one, still believe in this producer's dedication. Let's hope he gets it right the next time.
Music Vibes: 5.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 5.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 5.5 of 10
Originally posted: October 31, 2006