Album: The Future Is Now
Rating: 9 / 10
To say this album has been a long time coming would an incredible understatement, with the crew €™s first singles dropping over 5 years ago. The constant delays of the album too have only added to the enormous anticipation from underground heads around the world, but the good news is that the full length is finally here, drawing together new material and a few older tracks to create almost a Non Phixion 1999-2002 sessions album.
First impressions are always so crucial when it comes to music releases, perhaps even more so than other entertainment mediums, so when you see the album €™s amazing artwork and just quickly browse the inlay €™s credits, anticipation for hearing the actual music undoubtedly reaches fever pitch levels. Thankfully it does not disappoint. The production credits read like a who’s who of the great underground producers, from the early 90s (Pete Rock, Large Professor) to the present (JuJu, Necro) taking in someone by the name of DJ Premier on the way.
Even if the Non Phixion crew themselves are unknown to you, the production credits alone are clearly enough to grab your attention, mainly because it is the first album since Nas €™ €œIllmatic € to feature the so-called Holy Trinity of Extra P, Pete Rock and Primo. While the latter two only deliver one track each, they are well worth the wait and are clearly among the album €™s many highlights. €˜Rock Stars €™ may be essentially just Premier-by-numbers, but it still bangs as hard as usual, cutting up Inspectah Deck on the hook. €˜If You Got Love €™ however, is simply sublime, and one of Pete Rock €™s best productions of all time, including those on €œMecca and the Soul Brother € and €œCenter of Attention. € Large Professor too continues his Lazarus-esque rise back to the top of the game, following his superb two tracks for Nas €™ €œStillmatic, € providing another two of the album €™s crowning jewels, €˜Drug Music €™ and €˜Its Us. €™ It is truly testament to Necro €™s incredible beat making talent that, even alongside these three all-time greats, he more than holds his own, following the unbelievable beats he provided for the early Non Phixion tracks not included here. €˜Black Helicopters €™ will be familiar to most fans and was probably the pick of older 12’s that were released a few years back and on the LP, he also offers the B-side to €˜Rock Stars, €™ called €˜The CIA Is Trying to Kill Me, €™ somewhat of a companion piece to €˜Black Helicopters €™ keeping the paranoia theme going with another stirring string lead banger. His rhyme skills however are a bit of an acquired taste, but the verse he drops on €˜There Is No Future €™ compliments the track well, not really toning down the content of his two solo albums, but alongside other MCs, his lines fare better.
While I must be starting to sound like a broken record, the album is certainly not perfect. I haven €™t touched upon the MCing of Non Phixion much and that itself is part of the problem. They certainly are not bad, but given the almost uniform brilliance of the beats, its predictable that they might start to overshadow the skills of the group themselves. Thematically too, many tracks tend to rotate around the same major concerns and issues, yet when they break the mould, such as €˜Cult Leader, €™ €˜Strange Universe €™ and €˜Suicide Bomb, €™ themore interesting concepts shine through, exhibiting impressive lyrical abilities, despite being over slightly bland tracks.
Saying this however, you can still count the bad tracks on less than one hand, leaving even the most discerning listener with undoubtedly one of this year €™s best indie releases. The shame is that the album will obviously not reach as many people as it deserves to, with fallout from €œThe Eminem Show € and €œNellyville € emanating for probably the rest of the year, but to those in the know, this release is all the better for it, providing the perfect antidote to those €˜Without Me €™ blues…