Label: Rec League
Rating: 7.5 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
Take characteristics from the following artists – Eminem, Everlast, Beck, NERD, Fatboy Slim, Das Efx, Prince Paul. Swirl em round and pour them into a mould. Plonk the outcome down in Santa Cruz and sign it to Rec League Records. Then say hello to your boy, Proe.
“Perfect” is the followup to his 2003 debut “Tags On The Wall”, a release that generated a nice little regional buzz for both label and artist and gave him the confidence to sit down and craft these 19 tracks which take a look at life, society, love and everything in between.
Promising a little more than the standard hiphop release is easy to do – every artist does it with almost every release. Actually fulfilling the promise is a different kettle of fish, often made harder when an artist eschews a ‘traditional’ Hiphop blueprint and introduces other elements into the mix – it seems that the average head likes their Hiphop a certain way, and are often reluctant to embrace new ideas, even from tried and trusted artists (say hi to “The Love Below”.)
When this move away from the standard beats’n’rhymes line is championed by a relatively unknown newcomer, who at times on this album performs Hiphop hobo-ness on a par with Everlast or Beck, it often spells the end with the listener before they’ve even given the material a fair outing. If muhfuckas ain’t feeling Andre Benjamin singing about Caroline, or MOP rapping over feedback, then by actively trying to bend genres and flirting with fans of alt-rock, Proe is performing the Hiphop career equivalent of tightrope walking the Grand Canyon with no net, juggling loaded chainsaws, and carrying the entire budget for the war in Iraq in his back pocket. Blindfolded. At night. While drunk.
On first listen though, it looks like the boy made it to the other side without falling off. Of course there’s a few stumbles, but for the most part he’s balanced “Perfect” out pretty well.
Entirely self-produced, the album kicks off with ‘Prelude’, 3 minutes of straight spitting over dark guitar riffs where Proe namechecks artists like Bad Brains and Public Enemy, and realising his human faults, he admits that he’s “not perfect, but at least I didn’t vote for Bush”. Leaving aside the next track, ‘Big Step Little Step’ (too heavy on the guitars resulting in one of those infernal stumbles), the rest of the opening sequence of songs is as good as you’re likely to hear any time soon. The piano on ‘Move’ throws up comparisons with Aqualung’s ‘Strange And Beautiful’ (look it up bitches), while the Kanye-influenced ‘Robot’ manages to overcome a corny hook with the power of the morose beat, and Proe’s best Edan impression pushing things into a positive zone. ‘Butterfly’ continues in the same vein, with a wistful acoustic guitar at the base of the track being supported by a simple, minimal beat, before ‘Always Something New’ brightens the mood up with a sparkling old jazz/swing vibe and a catchy sped-up soul hook.
When Proe keeps things on a Hiphop keel, then the results are normally positive. In addition to the tracks above, cuts like ‘The Break Down’, ‘Sixty Six Seconds’, ‘Why Are You Here’ and ‘Fake Love’ shine out like little rap beacons, while ‘Alive’ is a strong candidate to feature on those ‘Best of 2005’ lists. Here, supported by Natalie Singly’s breathy vocals, and a Beatnuts-esque bassline, Proe ponders the conditions of human frailty, and why we need to do SOMETHING to fulfill our need to ‘belong’ – be it drugs, alcohol, gangbanging, vegetarianism… they all get featured.
Oh yeah. Remember those stumbles? Well they seem to crop up when Proe tries to go all ‘Andre’ on us. The title track sounds like some Preppy Beachhut shit, while ‘Sleeping With The Television On’ is like a bad version of Pitbull meets Beck. Elsewhere ‘Cages’ admirably deals with the subject of depression, but over a messy beat that’s liable to drive heads TO an overdose, and ‘Travellin’ Shoes And Sinner Blues’ has the most distracting harmonica sample known to man and a cheesy gospel hook that makes me want to run into traffic.
Over the course of the entire album though, these are really quite minor faults, and the beauty is that while these tracks may well be turn-offs for most Hiphop heads, Proe will definitely hook a wider audience with THESE tracks, and the Hiphop stuff on “Perfect” is laid out in such a way that these people will find it quickly and easily accessible.
So hats off to the one Proe, it seems that if his Hiphop career does fail, then there’s a spot waiting for him on any circus highwire. Nice balancing act!