Now that the discourse around Nas picking bad beats has been laid to rest, let’s remind ourselves who constantly picks the best beats. Detroit’s Guilty Simpson has famously worked with the greats: J Dilla, Madlib, Black Milk, and Apollo Brown – the fact he’s not relied on the obvious names like Premier or Dre and established his legacy around his hometown has enabled Guilty to build his brand of cool, calm head-nod hip-hop his own way. He remains underrated as an emcee, perhaps because he hasn’t garnered those A-list collaborations or crossover appeal – his albums rarely seem to get reviewed by mainstream media, which is a shame and mildly perplexing. Guilty Simpson has amassed one of my favorite discographies over two decades, and his best work may even be the overlooked Detroit’s Son project he did with Katalyst on Stones Throw, but it really is a difficult question to answer.

Considering the positive reception he usually receives from this website, we slept on 2022’s EP “Guilt” which Guilty released last summer. “Guilt” is built from similar stuff as 2021’s excellent “EGO” (produced by Gensu Dean) – another overlooked release that cracked my top 10 that year. This EP is a brief twenty-minute, seven-song offering with a variety of producers, something Guilty often veers away from. Usually accompanied by crashing snares, Guilty stomps all over Kount Fif’s “Go Where I Please” with a carefree swagger you come to expect but the lesser-known collaborators here might be why this one snuck under our radar, despite R.M.L. releasing music with Kount Fif through the reputable Man Bites Dog Records.

What I appreciate most about Guilty Simpson’s material is how he embraces eclectic production choices. “For the Real Only” has a crisp, live instrumentation quality to it, which when coupled with Mary Simmons’ vocals gives it a poppy-ness that I never truly expected. It’s probably the best track, with Guilty admitting he’s not interested in fame as he’s “doing me, I don’t need a lane”. It’s such a simple line, yet accurately describes so few emcees these days, as they snugly slot into sub-genres and categories based on their restrictive output. Guilty feels at home over all sorts of beats – his lane is the whole damn freeway.

“Guilt” may be shorter and less memorable than his full-length efforts, but it sits proudly amongst a deep, rich discography that stands up to any emcee from the past twenty years. “Dark Night” lacks some of the ‘oomph’ the rest of the EP provides, and the features from Prince Po, Bronze Nazareth, and Oh No aren’t as memorable as those names perhaps should be, but one could argue two are primarily producers and Po is long past his prime. Where this EP ultimately falters is in its lack of identity, perhaps best exemplified by slapping “Guilt” on it and the meager YouTube views on the record label’s channel (880 on the “Make It Count” video above) demonstrate this record barely registered with hip-hop heads, let alone the general public. As solid as the beats and rhymes are, it doesn’t quite stack up to Guilty’s high standards, but certainly deserves better.

Guilty Simpson :: Guilt
7Overall Score