Guilty Simpson is one of those guys from Detroit picked as “The Next Big Thing” in rap. It happens every few years as people look for the next J Dilla of production or Eminem of emceeing. (See current contender Big Sean for the latest example.) Simpson had a little bad luck though as he was hand picked BY DILLA HIMSELF, so Jay Dee’s untimely death was a huge obstacle to overcome. It’s fair to say that amongst underground rap fans he has acquitted himself well, but those who thought he’d be a household name by now need to revise their expectations.
“Rappers are see through, I know yo’ intentions
Casket victim, with no exemptions
I’m goin for Simpson, nuttin can hold me
Nuttin can fold me, I’m threadin the needle
And so we, fed the eagles
Led the people, against the odds
Built a squad, can’t believe who
rose triumphant, without the lob’
Without assistance, close the distance
And in that instant, I knew my job
Small Professor is the latest producer to step in and fill the role that J Dilla would have were he still with us today. Given the Philadelphia producer’s rising reputation in the bad world, it wasn’t a bad choice, and it pays dividends on “Highway Robbery.” Currently the album is exclusive to iTunes, but will hopefully be moving to more widespread distribution soon. There’s intensity in spades spread around – a harrowing blacksploitation sound to “On the Run” with DJ Revolution, hard clapping claves for “I’m the City” with Boldy James and Statik Selektah, and the growling challenge of “It’s Nuthin” featuring A.G. There are no wasted moments on this short 25 minute album – even instrumental interludes like “Blap” pack a punch.
The short length is probably the most significant downside of “Highway Robbery,” although at a $6.99 entry point you’re not getting jacked that much by Pro, G.S. or Apple. To a much lesser extent there are small problems (and we’re talking microscopic) with Guilty Simpson’s delivery. The smoldering anger of his Detroit design suits him well, but every so often he lapses into a too comfortable pattern of “I’ll say these words, and then add five more, then spit four more, yadda ya-da, blase blah blah.” It can at times dull your senses to the otherwise intricate writtens. Simpson walks the borderline of being an intellectual thug – someone you don’t want to mess with who also aspires to be greater than the crime infested streets he’s from. It’s not hard to see why J Dilla and so many others saw him as Detroit’s future, but on “Highway Robbery” you’re just getting an appetizer – hopefully he and Small Pro bring a banquet in the near future.