Baron Von Alias' "Timepiece" album seems like a cannot miss premise in a couple of integral ways; a relatively unknown UK rapper coupled with guest emcees and producers that are celebrated amongst the underground scene. Though as "Nastradamus" proved there is no such thing as a can't miss.
It is an understatement to call the concept of Baron Von Alias, as described by himself, pretentious. Without going into unnecessary depth, there is a description that indicates "Born in the early 1800's Baron Von Alias began his journey in the North of England. Armed with a family heirloom Von Alias was granted with a gift so rare; the powers required for time travel." Luckily the music on "Timepiece" does not take this concept too literally, as there are just references to his memories and hopes for the future, as opposed, to say, slaying dinosaurs. Between tracks there are science fiction effects like going through a time portal to keep with the theme.
The introduction is a bit underwhelming before Baron Von Alias finds a proper groove on "Here and Now" featuring Detroit emcee Guilty Simpson. The funky piano beat provided by Sleesh sets a more upbeat tone than most. The guest slays the beat, whereas Baron Von Alias does just enough to avoid being completely overshadowed with some choice lines like, "I'm here and now never there and then/Wherever I am is where it's happenin'." It's not that his lyrics are any weaker than Simpson's; in fact, they're probably better bars but the vocal presence and sometimes awkward phrasing can really distract from the words.
"Choices" brings us a beat by Oh No, so there is a certain level of expectation. This song ends up being mundane. The beat is indistinct and the chorus is repetitive. The only thing that keeps it from being a pure shippable track is the concept of ‘life being a sequence of choices.'
The lead single "P.H.O.N.E.Y." featuring Frank N Dank is a step back onto the right path thanks to the up-tempo dance-inspired production. Here Baron Von Alias displays a spit-fire rapid flow that is truly impressive.
Other backpackers will be sure to look into the two Khrysis joints "Kids of the Apocalypse" and "Memoirs of a Baron." The latter is the soulful piece you would want from the Little Brother contributor, which works in a nice classic vocal sample.
There are several other tracks that are solid contributions, yet few are absolutely essential listening experiences. Baron constantly varies the mood from the hopefulness of "The Sun Might Shine Tomorrow" to the absolutely gloomy "Don't Cry For Me." The chorus tells the grim tale:
"I keep moving (don't cry for me)
Death looms everywhere I look
I keep moving (don't cry for me)
The breath I drew takes me closer too
I keep moving (don't cry for me)
The end of the story comes to soon
Moving to another chapter in time
Don't cry for me, this is my life"
The way the disc delivers all sorts of feelings and tones is refreshing.
"Goodbye" is one more cut that deserves a closer look with slick trumpets and guests T3 (of Slum Village) and Melanie Rutherford. Here Von Alias sounds like a more robotic version of Gift of Gab from the producer/emcee duo Blackalicious, when rhyming in a quick, sharp manner:
"Tales of the extraordinary my vocabulary
Isn't really ready for these modern day emcees
Shares of the never ending story in my armory
Undoubtedly and overshadowed let the gallows swing"
When Baron sticks to the formula of sonically pleasing beats and straightforward rhyming he is mostly effective. However, there are a few boring beats and some points where he is just reaching, like on the schizophrenic "Ghosts."
Baron Von Alias has a truly unique voice and equally unique album in "Timepiece" but sometimes the wheels come off the wagon. While expectations for an album that features great guest emcees and producers of the underground are perhaps unfairly high, that does not mean that those expectations cease to exist. Baron holds his own in many ways but the album falls short of it's highly ambitious goals.
Music Vibes: 6.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7 of 10
Originally posted: April 14, 2009