It’s not always bad to review albums. At times it’s a lot of work to separate the wheat from the chaff, and at times you wonder if it’s worth all the effort you put into it, but every now and then you get to listen to something special just a little bit ahead of everybody else. It’s not a bad perk when you get to be early for a PremRock album, a man who I strongly endorse as one of most underrated self-produced underground rappers of the 2010’s. Incidentally it still feels strange to refer to the 10’s as a decade, even though we’re already halfway through it. It makes me realize that at some point there’s going to be nostalgia for the 2000’s, the same way there is for the 1970’s through 1990’s. I’m not sure how that decade will be summed up. Eight years of George W. Bush? Increasingly bad Matrix movies? We’ll see.

Back to my man Mark a/k/a PremRock though, who seems to have settled down from his “Wild Years” and is now merely in search of a “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” to lay his head down. He hasn’t abandoned his b-boy roots though and gone all peace and love – he’s still got the “rap, rock and roll” swagger that makes him the rap star you haven’t heard of (but should) on songs like “Supreme.”

“My whole crew sip bourbon and act like we quit learnin’
Not dumb meaning stupid but dumb we did it on purpose
Bare knuckle Tyler Durden encouraging how we learned to fight
Sure the shit is lit? Cause I don’t think the blunt is burnin right”

The lead single “Lens” is produced by Quelle Chris, who I’ve enjoyed more as a producer than an emcee over the years, so I think that’s actually a pretty good choice. Coincidentally enough it has a sound that makes me nostalgic for the 1990’s – it sound like the kind of indie rap record you’d hear coming out of the Fondle Em or Rawkus Records camps.

Over the length of 16 songs and 47 minutes, PremRock gives us a slice of how he’s feeling in 2014, with remarkably little pretense or flaunting for a contemporary hip-hop artist. “Short Days & Sharp Blades” pulls no punches figuratively or literally as Prem says “I could die tomorrow like ‘fuck it, I did plenty’/but never that, and I’m forever packed to get ready.” The soothing samples in the backdrop of “Berlin” set up a love story with a dimepiece for whom “English is a third language.” You don’t get a lot of international romance in rap unless it’s clumsy wordplay about ethnic body types, so the depth of the song is a true masterpiece. What else would you expect from an emcee who does a song called “Waiting For Godot” though?

Though Mark may vow he’s “Indifferent” on one of the “Clean, Well-Lighted” tracks the truth is he’s anything but. He’s got a deep and slightly gruff vocal tones, one which carries well over the beats – a mixture of Guru, Ed O.G. and Prodigy in all the right amounts. He’s making songs from personal experience with the intention that the listener can relate, and by the album’s closer “Hold It Together” it’s pretty clear he has succeeded. It would be a step too far to say it’s art for art’s sake alone, as the album is clearly being released to the masses, but it’s not a hip-hop album that is driven by the trends of the day or catching the formula for radio play. Mark doesn’t AutoTune or hit air horns or call in famous celebrities for cameos – he just quietly and confidently makes rap music worth listening to.

PremRock :: A Clean, Well-Lighted Place
7.5Overall Score