Adlib is going to sound familiar to you immediately once you press play on “The Highway” even if you’ve never bought or downloaded one of his albums before now. That’s not surprising given the list of artists he’s worked with and/or toured with – Jedi Mind Tricks, Slaineand Madchildjust to name a few. That means even if you haven’t heard any of his cameos or guest appearances, it doesn’t matter, because by running in the same circles he’s got that same East coast/underground/gruff independent-as-f#%! sound as his peers.
It’s not an accident that those same artists he showed love to in the past and sounds like on wax are showing love in return on “The Highway.” Swollen Members producer extraordinaire Rob the Viking laces “Beastmode” and Madchild provides a cameo verse, and if you stumbled into this song completely at random you’d think it was a bonus track from an album like “Brand New Day” that you accidentally skipped over the last time. This isn’t a song for the club, unless you’re dousing the club in kerosene and lighting a match. It stomps hard and makes no apologies.
Rob also laces “Out of Step” featuring UG, and it’s equally grim, opening with the bars “I stick the gauge in your ribcage, hyena/I climb where the highest tree is, hide in legion/stalk prey – lions, zebras and antelopes/I let the cannon blow a hole in your cantaloupe.” He can’t help sounding like a crossbreed between Vinnie Paz and Necro – and it’s not a bad look. “Hard Luck” is the kind of downtrodden, growling and gritty rap you can turn up and scream along to ’til your lungs collapse. “I was born with a dark cloud over my head/they said that I would end up in jail or dead.” Ali Armz produces it brutally and beautifully.
Armz is one of Adlib’s favorites on “The Highway” and with good reason. From the haunted violin strings and heavy percussion of “Astro Ride” to the graffiti influenced “All City” featuring Shabaam Sahdeeq, Armz has his pulse on Adlib’s heartbeat. In general Adlib has a “too many cooks” approach to his production, working with a few people who get him instead of a whole lot of people who just want to sell him their bangers that didn’t get picked up by Action Bronson and Jadakiss. Master Sihn and Diox prove they fit in with the mix, and you’ll be as down with “Rolling Stoned” and the title track (featuring Jessica Lamb) as anything else on this short 34 minute album. I admit the Triple H sample on “The Highway” caught me by surprise, but it’s cleverly enough excised that you wouldn’t need to be a pro wrestling fan to dig it – nor is it a theme in general for Adlib. He’s just an underground emcee trying to break out.