Boston’s contributions to hip-hop have been diverse, intelligent, yet appreciated by relatively few. From Guru (of Gangstarr) to Edo G, Boston has generally been underappreciated but respected by the underground hip-hop world. Three excellent artists from Boston have come together to form a supergroup. Akrobatik, Mr. Lif, and DJ Fakts are each unique as they join together to form The Perceptionists. Mr. Lif released the magnificent I Phantom album on Definitive Jux along with 2 solid EPs. His unique voice, political views, quick flow, and insightful lyrics are unmatched by anyone. Akrobatik’s debut album, Balance (released on Coup D’Etat), was also a superb LP which consisted of hungry energy, intelligent lyricism, and a variety of creative topics. DJ Fakts One produced tracks for both artists. While LPs from supergroups are a hit or miss affair, The Black Dialogue LP by The Perceptionists is an excellent experience, which is both thought provoking and fun.
The best songs from Black Dialogue give the listener instant satisfaction but will also improve with age. The opening track, Let’s Move (produced by Fakts One) is an adrenaline-filled anthem that ignites the album’s energy. Akrobatik’s energetic hook is both fun and wild: “…Let me see some heads nodding, fists pumping, feet stomping / Ass shaking, necks breaking, earth quaking – Let’s move! / F*ck a battle, we got nothing to prove – Let’s move!…” The different styles and vocal tones of Mr. Lif and Akrobatik compliment the track extremely well. Another energetic song is Blo, which uses a famous Krs-One vocal sample in the hook. Produced by El-P, Blo is a perfect example of controlled chaos working in a magnificent way. Love Letters (produced by Willie Evans Jr.) is an incredible romantic love song, which maintains the rough hip-hop strength. Akrobatik’s opening verse, along with his flow, adds to the song’s unique and poignant style. Akrobatik rhymes, “…I knew it from the moment that I saw you, you was just what I need / see, you the second grade teacher for my homeboy’s seed / He came to pick him up the other day and I was in the whip / I saw you and immediately started to trip / It’s like I realized for the first time what beauty was / And all of this was even before I peeped the gluteus / Maximum anxiety, played the shy role / Gave you a ‘hello’ and a subtle eye roll…” The marriage of the old-school and new-school deliveries are executed with a graceful precision. Lif and Ak perfectly ride driving beat while displaying their hip-hop bond.
The Black Dialogue LP is also filled with some very creative concept-driven tracks. Produced by Fakts One, Career Finders features Humpty Hump (aka Shock G of Digital Underground). The song is basically an interview between recruiters trying to find a better career for rapper candidates. The energetic, old school beat has a deep, funky bass line. In the first verse, Akrobatik and Mr. Lif go back and forth with exceptional cadence. In the third verse, Akrobatik closes the track with a mind-blowing flow and clever lyricism. Ak rhymes, “Instead of making records, having everybody nervous / Maybe we could get you something with the secret service / Many applicants frowned when they first heard this / But what’s being an artist got to do with being murdered?” Produced by Fakts One, 5 O’clock features Phonte of Little Brother. The song captures the feeling of freedom felt at the end of a long workday.
Serious topics can also be found between the fun songs or concept-driven tracks. The title track, Black Dialogue (produced by Willie Evans Jr.), addresses African-American culture with extraordinary insight. From slavery and exploitation to the theft of Black culture and self-criticism, Black Dialogue is not only educational but a brutally honest display of cultural pride. Memorial Day (produced by Cyrus The Great) is a moving song about the current war situation in the Middle East. The chanted chorus asks some important questions, “Where are the weapons of mass destruction?/ We’ve been looking for months and we ain’t found nothing / Please Mr. President tell us something / We knew from the beginning that your *ss was fronting.” While some may think the chorus is simple or cynical, the verses are poignant narrations from the points of view of soldiers.
Today’s hip-hop LPs usually run approximately 70 minutes long and have up to 20 tracks. “Black Dialogue” by The Perceptionists is a tight album with 12 solid tracks that are strong enough to stand-alone. Diverse in both theme and style, the LP has a very high replay level as a balance between lyrics and production. While Mr. Lif and Akrobatik have released excellent solo albums, their chemistry together is unique and refreshing. Not only do they respect the roots of hip-hop, they are also trying to help hip-hop’s evolution. Black Dialogue is a truly brilliant album that satisfies more with every listen.
Black Dialogue (2005)
Record Label: Definitive Jux