erasing clouds

The Procussions, ...As Iron Sharpens Iron

reviewed by ben rubenstein

The Procussions' debut LP …As Iron Sharpens Iron" makes huge strides in the reinvention of positive hip-hop. With a jazzy, loose style that celebrates the old-school tradition, the trio of Stro the 89th Key, Mr. J Medeiros, and Resonant create memorable tracks that touch on real issues while maintaining a vibrant flow. Hailing from the unlikely state of Colorado, this collective has clearly developed a rapport with one another, a synergy that contributes to their cohesive, free-flowing sound. All three rappers supply inspired rhymes that focus on heavy topics while keeping the album from dragging too much. Don't expect too much clever wordplay; these rappers are interested in melding their voices with the challenging production, and creating an inspirational group sound, while still making waves with their words.

Meanwhile, Stro is one of the most gifted producers to emerge since The Roots' ?uestlove, blending jazzy live sounds with melodic electronic beats to create a unique, distinctive sound. While some songs may recall the production of heavyweights like the Pharcyde ("Introducing"), Mos Def ("Move Yer Self", which includes a sample of the mighty Mos) or Hi-Tek ("How Do I Describe"), The Procussions use their influences to form an original style that shines through on the most hard-hitting tracks. For example, the frenetic "Lights Off" features a building drum and Rhodes beat, interlaced with electronic shrieks and thumping bass. The story each rapper unfolds about the addiction to money and fame and the problems that can arise is multiplied in intensity by the inventive production. The album hits its stride with "All That It Takes", a horn and piano-driven jam that feels like a celebration of the freewheeling jazz that likely influenced the group. The pure energy and joy that the track exudes contributes to its infectious feeling as the rappers mold their flows to the cadence of the jazzy beats. Clearly, this album is about having fun with hip-hop, and avoiding the politics that can take away from its power to inspire. The bass-heavy "Celebration", where the rappers demonstrate old-school reverence to produce a thumping track that will be sure to get crowds moving at their live shows, reflects that sentiment. Another standout track, "Leave Her Alone", details the difficulties of leaving a relationship through astute lyricism and smooth, melodic backing. This is sure to be a favorite among fans of Talib Kweli and other MC's of the so-called 'true school'.

This is one of the few indie-rap albums that is excellent from start to finish, and leaves more than a few lingering sounds in your head after you turn it off. Any reminders of other groups are nothing but compliments for the way that The Procussions make their songs feel like classics from the outset. With their positive outlook, deft, interesting rhyming, and continuously strong production, The Procussions have proven their potential as part of a new wave in conscious hip-hop.


Issue 21, March 2004

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