Having previously reviewed “Moonshine” – an album by Chicago native Matlock that dropped on the same day as Kanye West’s “Graduation” – my ears pricked up when I heard about his new LP, “2707.” I rated him as an exceptional lyricist first-time round, a view that hasn’t changed, but saw the beats as middling, imploring him to diversify and focus on the music to inspire the listeners. Whilst I’m sure my review had absolutely no bearing, it’s great to see that Matlock has at least focussed on providing his own talents with a firmer musical foundation. The result is a strong album that leaves you scratching your head as to why he isn’t on a more prominent record label – he deserves the shine.

“2707” is an hour-long rap album. That might sound stupidly obvious on RapReviews – but there aren’t a plethora of R&B choruses, or pop-crossovers, or dance beats. It’s a relatively straightforward MC-driven LP, but musically it’s surprisingly diverse, with virtually no two tracks sounding the same. Surprisingly, it turns out that having a variety of producers makes for a much more consistent listen – last time out, I felt that an over-reliance on Kaz One was the first album’s downfall. This time, Kaz has just the one track on “2707” but best believe he brings the heat, with the hauntingly beautiful “God vs. Money.” The more expansive sound definitely does Matlock many a favour – from the superb lead single “Brand New Nikes,” funky intro “Please Do” and the absolutely sick Prolyfic beat for “Blaze It Up” (that deservedly goes on for five and a half minutes); these wildly different beats still fit the whole game-plan. Each is deeply melodic, and you can tell that Matlock has probably taken his time and stockpiled these over the last few years – a strategy that pays off well.

After such a strong opening third – with the two DJ Monky features being good, not great – we reach “The Legend of Billy Boombox” which is, essentially, a grittier version of Lupe Fiasco’s “Hip Hop Saved My Life” (I recognise that another reviewer stated this, but there really is no other description). It is probably one of the more divisive songs on the LP – a strong concept, a catchy beat but one that I’d have to be in the mood in to repeat listen. A couple of songs later comes the absolutely SICK “I Don’t Play That” – with Ben Rosen dropping the kind of beat that Timbaland has been trying to do for about two years now (I could imagine this getting some serious airplay, with the right video). Another great concept record is “Margo’s Song” – it’s brilliantly executed, with a real Pac feel to it, and I won’t spoil it for you by crudely describing it, just listen for yourself.

“Bright Sunny Day” – another dope Ben Rosen instrumental – is Matlock’s similar-ish take on “It Was A Good Day” (I just wish it wasn’t chucking it down with rain right now, as it is a great summer song to chill out to). “Priceless” is one of those underground hip hop staple songs about how much we all love underground hip hop, which is nice enough. But the next couple of tracks (“Honky Kong” and “Days I Remember”) are slightly self-indulgent, and possibly the most skippable tracks on “2707.” Album closer, the excellent “Last Train” (which shares a sample with Black Milk’s recent track “Deadly Medley”) is similar to Biggie’s “Suicidal Thoughts” in a manner of speaking, and it certainly grabs (and holds) your attention. All in all, out of fifteen tracks, I would only brutally cull a couple of them, so the quality level remains VERY high throughout.

Matlock as an MC is extremely good. Whilst he may have softened the intricate wordplay and complex flows, he’s traded it in for coming across better and communicating more effectively with the listener. As a result, there just aren’t many MC’s like him, let alone ones that can – independently, it must be said – put together an excellent long play record. If I switched the name on the package, gave it to you and said “This is the new joint from ____” then you’d love it, the music, lyrics, the whole shebang. Which begs the question, why on earth is Matlock still so relatively unheard of? “Brand New Nikes” seems to have be a breakthrough moment for him, already accumulating over 175,000 YouTube views, but will that translate into album sales? It must be like being on a long and winding road that never really ends, but at least Matlock seems to really love hip hop, making records and having fun with it. With Shady having signed Yelawolf, you’d hope that they might cast an eye over Matlock whilst they are at it. He’s a talented MC, a good artist and there are some potential cross-over records, without even sounding cheesy. But regardless of anything else, Matty has done himself proud with a very strong “2707” that should see him have a great 2011.

Matlock :: 2707
8Overall Score