The name of the crew may not be familiar, but the artists who reside in it should be. Muneshine received an 8 out of 10 from RapReviews for his beats on “A Walk in the Park” in 2007, and Saint got an equivalent dose of dap on “About Time” in 2008 for his rhymes. That’s all lovely, but like so many great underground artists, it left them critically acclaimed and commercially frustrated. Friendship and mutual respect between the two led to one of those “Shit, why not?” moments that happens so often in hip-hop, so the residents of Toronto and Long Island respectively decided to “Open House” in a new locale from their own minds.

2009 proved to be a good time to release their debut collaboration in Japan, but unless you could read the tea leaves or feel the boom bap floating across the Pacific, the majority of North American listeners remained just as clueless about the music. Muneshine and Saint don’t fall into the piss and moan clique though – they decided to go in the bold direction of offering their album for free. If you were already feeling Mune or Saint individually before reading this review, there’s no reason to wait – go hit up the download. If you don’t know them yet, heed the words in the review, take your time and make your mind up. The digital copy won’t cost you anything but time and hard drive space, and there are gems aplenty to enjoy, such as an unexpected update to A Tribe Called Quest’s “Midnight” called “Nocturnal”:

“It’s like I’m hearin the call, the new Smooth Operator
No static interference at all
It’s so tragic, wrath of the Lakers, post Kareem
‘member ‘fore Kobe homey there’s no +Magic+
In a deep sleep, pocket escape with REM
I can hardly bend reality, try and relate
I can find the right path when the fog lifts
When the smoke clears and the fear is exhausted – aww shit
Don’t get ahead when you’re not lookin, it’s never too late
to take flight if it’s not tooken, we not shooken
Nocturnal, we don’t follow the rest (get it?)
I call it dedicated (crazy) y’all are obsessed
The night is on the mind… the sun will still shine
But the night is on the mind…”

The jazzy beats and the laid back lyrical delivery create a visually compelling auditory setting that captures Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed’s vibe perfectly. “Open House” is not an album of covers and updates though – it’s packed with plenty of original material where these under-recognized rappers work with “Veterans” like Edo. G to create new era hits:

Edo: “This goes out to all ghettos, squash devils on all levels
Edo rock your pebbles and LeBron your Carmellos
That’s second place, protect your space
I ain’t aimin for the neck or waist, I’m hittin head and face
You waitin to fail (yeah)
Yeah you a dog, but you chasin your tail
Runnin in circles, while the cops encircle
I’m about virtue without tryin to hurt you
It’s past your curfew…”

Collaborations don’t dominate “Open House” but they do play an important and welcomed part. Cadence (slept on in his own right) and Dminor guest on the uplifting mellow melody of “Keys to Life.” Rob Swift rocks the xylophones with quick and dope scratches on “Something Like.” Even Ohmega Watts jumps in the mix on the album to extend his “Reach.” Each guest adds on to the vibe that Muneshine and Saint have established without disrupting the cross-country collabo’ the duo are on. Each note they hit on seems to dig “Beneath the Surface” into true rap beauty, although they profess over the soothing harmonies and ringing bells of the aforementioned track that it’s “not a song about hip-hop music” but in fact “a song to seek purpose.” The purpose was “art from the heart” and I’m convinced by tracks like the outer spaced ethereal funk rhyme “Love of My Night” that they found it. Few times has a “hit it and quit it” booty call sounded so soulful.

A healthy amount of self-doubt is always in order to make sure what you say and do stays true, and if I sense one thing about Muneshine and Saint it’s that they feel the exact same way. These are not artists who are either swelled with self-importance as elitist verbalists, filled with cocky bravado as punchline pugilists, or loaded with vitriolic vinegar and piss as undiscovered greats that never got a break. When you eschew the standard stereotypes of the genre and go for something beyond the norm, then take a step beyond and give it away FOR FREE, you’re not just getting praise as the flavor of the month – you truly deserve it. Though I may at times doubt my own words I don’t doubt that everything on “Open House” is fresh enough I would have happily paid $12.99 for it. Take advantage of Muneshine and Saint’s generosity, which may not be deserved given their quality but shouldn’t be passed up or ignored all the same. I expect to burn this album to a CD and bump it in my ride all spring and summer.

The Residents :: Open House
8.5Overall Score