Not many of us can claim to have worked with luminaries the likes of KRS-One, Big Daddy Kane, Soul Supreme, Louis Logic, Edo G., Edan, and Mr. Lif. Hip Hop renaissance man, Insight, however, can make such a claimâ€”not to mention a few self-produced LPs the likes of which have not been seen in Hip Hop before or since (the 43 track tour-de-force of cut and past that is “Updated Software V2.5,” for example). If name-dropping can garner anyone richly deserved notice, then let him be Insight.
With the playfulness of De La Soul, boom-bap aggression of KRS-One, nerdy affinity for high-tech jargon of Canibus, and Slick Rick tale-telling, Insight is an interesting amalgam of Hip Hop past, present and future. With a smooth voice and delivery (think an east coast version of Soup, from J5) and a wide variety of the SP1200-sound beats, Insight hits it on all cylinders on The Blast Radius.
A common complaint among Hip Hop fans today is that it lacks the creativity and fun that it once oozed. The aptly-named Insight lacks neither as the majority of his tracks feature innovative themes and concepts. Insight updates the classic KRS-One knowledge track “You Must Learn” with his own version, recounting a dream (more like a nightmare) where the world is devoid of some of the many important black inventions, including the lawn mower, the light-bulb filament, the air conditioner and the pencil sharpener. On album-opener “Time Frame,” Insight offers a detailed history of black people and Hip Hop music in relation to the then-current events of various eras in Americaâ€”showing where it’s been and where it is. Elsewhere, Insight explores his schizophrenic tendencies on “Seventeen MCs,” in which he assumes the personas and voices of seventeen different rappersâ€”a playful exercise that might even impress Hip Hop’s resident shape-shifter MF DOOM. All the more impressive on this track is Insight’s deft layering of his own singing in several points to create astoundingly rich vocal harmonies.
The crown gems of “The Blast Radius,” however, comes at its conclusionâ€”with an assist from fellow Bostonian Edo G. on “Strategy,” and the ethereal bonus cut “Visual Audio. Insight et al come hard on both of these tracks with the verbal assaults and clever shit-talking steez that makes the underground heads proud.
There seems to be an ever-growing niche in Hip Hop for the mult-talented artists like DJ Quik, Cee-Lo, K-Os and others who can successfully handle multiple duties on their own records, and Insight proves himself on “The Blast Radius” as yet another. The difference is only that the others may appeal to broader audience (ie more commercial). So while Insight remains in relative obscurity despite some fairly high-profile professional relationships and multiple solid underground releases to his credit, don’t be fooled by the lack of hype, because the most widely-recognized rapper rep’ing Boston right now got there for all the wrong reasons. Insight lives up to his name in a big way.