I mean this in the nicest way possible, but Locksmith albums can sometimes be a hard sell. Over the last decade, we’ve had everything from frank admissions of childhood abuse to unemployment struggles and political analysis. If you appreciate earnest lyricism and are open to learning something new, Locksmith is one of the best emcees around, but I’m not surprised he’s often overlooked and unfairly left off of “lists”. He makes albums that you need to sit back and concentrate on. A Locksmith track popping up in a playlist doesn’t feel right, even if it’s a lyrical sparring session. His recent release, “No Atheists in Foxholes” is no different, kicking off immediately with the song “Pain”, a track all about a sense of place, and growing helplessness in a world of chaos. It’s a bold way to start an album, that isn’t afraid to take listeners to places you wouldn’t expect.

Beats vary from commercially friendly pop-rap to Autotuned trap and everything in between. Some of these are more successful than others: “Hypocrites” is the quintessential Locksmith track that I associate him with. Stripped back, yet soulful, and with a direct, message-driven set of verses delivered with an airtight flow. “I Don’t Wanna” is a dope collaboration with Chris Webby and Jon Connor that is typically brash and commanding, and you’ve also got two of my favourites, Sa-roc and Ransom, matching Lock’s penchant for a mean pen game on “Wonderful” and “Bad Luck”. When revisiting his previous projects for this review, there’s a noticeable increase in guests on this album, which feels like a purposeful statement of intent. He’s pissed off – assemble the troops.

“Let ’em Sleep” is more trivial, and ironically, could have done with a guest to break it up a bit as the beat quickly grates. It’s further proof as to why 2018’s “No Question” with Apollo Brown remains a perfect Hip-Hop record – when the beat is up to snuff, few are better than Locksmith. Much like Rugged Man, Vinnie Paz and even Eminem, songs like “STRONGER” (featuring Rebecca Nobel) always feel jarring no matter how obligatory they now seem, so I can see why it’s used to close out the album. You know the drill now, include a catchy hook that still feels like it’s trying to capture the “Airplanes” moment B.O.B. had back in 2010 with Hayley Williams. Except, this one is a solid commentary on the plight of a society addicted to social media.

This is where Locksmith proves to be supremely talented – even when dragging the listener through grim backdrops, harsh truths, or straightforward gloating, he’s always got you by the ear. He’s an old-fashioned news reporter, dialling in from the streets. “America” feels refreshing, if only because it’s been a while since an emcee has laid out all the flaws and contradictions in the USA, cutting through the facade the country frequently paints for itself. Having recently been force-fed the American dream via Wrestlemania’s onslaught of advertising and propaganda, it felt particularly apt. Beefy brutes with six-packs peddling Snickers bars and energy drinks? Only in America.

I saw Locksmith perform back in 2014, and he was on the same bill as Blak Twang, RA the Rugged Man and Pharaohe Monch. That’s a heavyweight line-up, and Locksmith has shown over the last decade that he is operating on a similar level, quickly building a legacy to compare with any of your favourites. He has the chops for multi-faceted, densely written rap, but his biggest strength is his ability to turn his hand to interesting themes, or original stories. This album may be slightly heavy on guest features, and at eighteen tracks, it’s a little long, but it showcases everything you expect. Fans know what they’re getting, and on that front, Locksmith delivers. Pretty much all of his albums are a couple of tracks away from greatness, and “No Atheists in Foxholes” is no different.

Locksmith :: No Atheists in Foxholes
7.5Overall Score