Saturday, December 28, 2013

Mr. Smith

Diggers With Gratitude has started to expand from a label specialized only in issuing unreleased hip-hop treasures of decades past to a more traditional label with a small family of artists. You're not just as likely to see another all new 12" by, say, Phill Most Chill, as you are another lost Tragedy track. And it's in the spirit of this newer mode that we're presented with their latest record: The Marc Smith LP by Emskee and The 5th.

Emskee, in case you've forgotten, is a deep-voiced Jersey MC who we first heard on Nick Wiz's Cellar Sounds compilations, who'd also been active in the late 2000s as a member of The Good People. DWG went to work and unearthed all his vaulted material from the early 90s - including a neat collection of radio promos - and now he seems to have found a spot on the DWG family tree. And The 5th? He's the DJ/ producer for Long Island's Sputnik Brown, another group that DWG's been rolling with.

So, this is a coming together usually separate acts under DWG's umbrella, though the focus seems to be on the MC half as Marc Smith is Emskee's real name. The 5th might just need a better agent. ;)  Because despite the title, this isn't a particularly personal album... he makes some reference to coming up in Jersey, but this is no collection of childhood memories, parental odes and tales of failed relationships. Thankfully. Instead, this is just Emskee calmly boasting and talking up his credibility.

It's really all about his voice professionally flowing over The 5th's traditional boom bap beats. Most are slow, deep and Earthy, with the stand outs being the few songs that get a little more high energy or feature especially choice vocal samples being scratched into the hooks... "Annunciate" makes some really fun use of The DOC over a simple but catchy sample.  "Fuck Shit Up" is a bouncy little posse cut. And "I'm Ready" is the liveliest, with some fresh Digable Planets cuts.

There are a couple guests on hand here, including The Good People's Saint, and two unknowns named Benn ILLA and Jesus Mason, who turn up on like three songs. No one really steals the show from Emskee, but they do provide a little variety to keep the album from feeling too monotonous.

If the album's weakness is that it plays things a little too safe, that does make a pretty nice comfort zone for the buyer. You didn't really need to read any reviews or hear any snippets to gather that this was going to be a solid LP, did you? You know you're not gonna be stuck with something poor from DWG. And as this is a new LP, it's not being sold at a "limited" price, but as a standard modern LP. Plus, it comes on a nice heavy wax in a very fresh picture cover. Good deal. 8)

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