“Who’s The Collective? Timothy, Levite and Da Blacksmith (blessed by the ruggedest tracks by Theory Hazit).” That’ll be Timothy Brindle, Stephen The Levite and Zae Da Blacksmith, then; some of Lamp Mode Recordings’ freshest and finest. “What’s the objective? To give cats the music they’re lacking and international missions, for anyone asking.” That pretty much sums up this self-titled album.
Perhaps the good folks over at Lamp Mode listen to feedback; over the last couple of releases there has been a gradual shift towards a more authentic and traditional (90s) hip-hop sound and this release is currently at the pinnacle of that change. As mentioned, Theory Hazit is almost solely responsible for the fact that they’ve definitely achieved the objective of giving “cats music they’re lacking” – bringing on board one of Humble Beast’s own was certainly a shrewd move. DJ Essence, Tone Jonez and Daniel El all contribute a track each and DJ Average Joe provides cuts a-plenty. The production is rich, raw and doesn’t lack that gritty punch that some of Lamp Mode’s other releases are missing. Trumpet loops, orchestral stabs and vocal snippets provide the Wu-Tang-like sonics whilst bass lines and drum patterns are usually brought a little more up-to-date (although James Brown-style drum loops do feature).
None of these rappers struggle conceptually in their solo work but by working as a group they have ensured that track concepts are very clear, enabling each MC’s content to be extremely on-point. On ‘Bad Words’ Stephen The Levite outlines three bible stories and proves how they exemplify particular lessons for us. ‘Bad Good Works’ is a Gospel message many of us need to hear – legalism must not take hold in our lives and that “The work of God is to believe in His Son”. ‘Joshua & Jesus’ (a track which samples the melody of ‘Windmills of My Mind’ – a tune which cries out to be used in exactly this manner) compares the two and explains how Joshua was a foreshadow, or a ‘type’ of Jesus – his life as a prophecy of Jesus. ’4 My Ninjas’ is a very well executed concept: there are ninjas in the church; those who do God’s work in the background with little recognition (Timothy Brindle raps his verse about mothers). I could go on explaining the concept of each track as it is so easy to identify the theme of each.
Lyrically none of these MCs struggle. Timothy Brindle is well known for his multisyllabic rhymes and these are displayed here. Zae Da Blacksmith has an awesomely hard-hitting delivery – sounding the most 90s-hardcore-rap-ish and thus linguistics are emphasised. Stephen The Levite has that effortless sounding flow, again with complex rhyme patterns which are all packaged in the rowdy fashion of this album. Lyrically and vocally this definitely sounds like a whole album full of 90s posse cuts.
An album where almost all tracks are distinct and memorable is rare, yet this is one of them. Naturally, there will be a couple of tracks on any album which don’t quite hit home for whatever reason and often these tracks will be different for different people; for me ‘The Walk’ and ‘Heart Broken’ are those tracks.
‘The Collective’ is a quality release in all respects and the listener will surely be left hoping that this isn’t just a one-off project and that these three MCs will get together yet again as the group chemistry is very potent. A must buy – it won’t disappoint. Now to listen to that new Shai Linne…