On rare occasions I accidentally discover something special. The union of Alfred Banks and Albert Allenback is just that something. Performing collectively as SaxKixAve, the duo are picking up the torch laid down by the late Keith Elam and running with it on “I Don’t Wear Suits.” Unexpected surprises are the best kind, and from the moment I hit play on the “Intro” I was immediately hit by the last thing I expected on an album under 20 minutes long — introspection. “The craziest thing that I’d ever heard was/Alfred, you should be more assertive/That energy used to make me nervous, but/the respect that comes with it, I deserve it, so/Tell everybody you’re knowin about us/I wanna know their response and the outcome.”
I admire Alfred for being rawer than steak tartare with his feelings from the word go. Not many emcees (or people in general) would admit to being insecure about success, questioning the very nature of what it means, then by turn deciding that they deserve happiness and good things coming their way. Once Banks finds his stride and confidence, his sense of humor comes along for the ride. “They gotta love it, no way that they can doubt it/We the shit, that’s why we so anal about it.” I dig it man. It’s playful but mellow at the same time thanks to Allenback providing the jazz side of the equation. In an era where negativity and depression are hallmarks of rap musical expression a track called “Optimism” shines that much brighter.
“Optimism is something I’ve always struggled with… but sometimes things get a little crazy and, optimism can be the main driving force.” That might sound borderline preachy to someone jaded. Ah hell y’all, I’m that someone. I’m fucking jaded and “Optimism” struck a chord with me anyway, as did the playful sexuality of “Cheeks” built on a metaphor for being a girl’s favorite accessory in her back pocket. “I move a little slower, but I’m still the same/New version of me is goin ‘cross yo’ brain/Nah! I don’t like that, so I pick up the pace/cause I love the glow that I give you when you close to my face.”
“I Don’t Wear Suits” is purposefully trying to be different from everything else you’re listening to. “All that, we on/We on that and beyond/You gettin too old for the job/I’m the predecessor like Batman Beyond.” That line alone on “Tawny” would have sold me, just because that might be my favorite and most underrated show from the DCAU. Clever bars alone aren’t enough to make a rapper great, but the confidence with which Banks delivers lines like “I’m going back in like a reverse pregnancy” carries him far, and the musical stylings of Allenback carry him further than that.
So far as I can tell the only downside to “I Don’t Wear Suits” is that it’s under 20 minutes in length. I can understand that. It’s their first collaboration, they are testing the waters, they didn’t want to record a full album and find out this partnership wasn’t to their benefit. Believe me though — IT IS. Alfred loves metaphors so here’s mine — we’re in the first quarter right now and it’s hard to see where the game is going, but he’s Jordan and Allenback is Pippen. As long as they work together they’re going to win big by the end.