Let me get this out of the way: Veteran Virginia rapper Empuls leaves a little more to be desired with his latest album, “Astronaut Visions.” That isn’t to say that it’s a bad album, but its length is its Achilles Heel: The album feels short in terms of the number of tracks and for how long (or how short) some of them are. The title and album cover imply that Empuls has a perspective that may be uncommon, going beyond the telescopic. With his Danny Brown-like cadence, Empuls treats listeners to his most perceptive lyrics best over the topical tracks with a “Who’s Who?” of underground rap producers behind the boards.
The Leesburg emcee’s take on love is put on display on “I Really Didn’t Mean It” over Krohme’s trippy soulful production. Though just under two minutes, Empuls spins a yarn about the dangers of love when emotionally immature people get together. “Paracelsus Lessons” has Empuls making use of medical terminologies as metaphors for his lyrical skills over Black Tokyo’s synth-laced beat and cuts courtesy of DJ Ragz. The second single, the Bronze Nazareth-produced “Prized Horses”, is straight boom-bap. Featuring Slug from Atmosphere, MBD labelmate Copywrite is also present, and Copy helming the first verse as a guest rapper remains a tough act to follow:
Copy makes his present felt again, but this time as the producer on the bassline heavy “Nevahavanuffgunz”, a tongue-in-cheek meditation on the proliferation of gun owners and a reference to the lax gun laws in Empuls’s own home state. One of the few tracks to go over four minutes is the Night Walker-produced “Astronaut”, a piano-driven narrative about a melancholic childhood and the only track that’s in-line with both the album’s title and cover. The first single, “T.U.T. (Tension Under Time)”, has some layered, atmospheric production from Blockhead:
Rounding “Astronaut Visions” out are the final three tracks. Kount Fif laces a particularly spooky and ominous beat on the conspiracy theory laden “Skinwalker Ranch”. The track also features Fatboi Sharif who raps like he’s doing his best MF DOOM impression. New York-bred emcee Double A.B. makes an appearance on “Dumb Emission”, which has distorted vocals and edited lyrics over Scram Jones’ bass-heavy production. Lastly, is the Dub Sonata-helmed “Flowers in Tibet”, where Dewey Binns provides a lyrical assist about making right choices. Though my sole complaint about the album is its overall length, “Astronaut Visions” is musically varied and takes interesting lyrical turns which prevent it from being a boring listen.