Album: Midnight Green
Label: EV Records
Rating: 8.5 / 10
Reviewer: Nick D
Due to the recent commercial successes of Common Sense, Kanye West, and to a lesser degree Twista, it seems as though Chicago hip-hop is becoming synonymous with the popular artists that call €œThe Windy City € home. As a result, the city €™s strong underground acts, which are the nucleus of its overlooked rap scene, are likewise disregarded with very few exceptions.
Judging by the quality of their debut LP, €œMidnight Green, € Modill looks to be one of these exceptions. Comprised of DJ K-Kruz and MC Racecar, the Chicago based tandem utilizes the rare combination of imitation and innovation that should propel them from the bleak obscurity that plagues similar Chi-Town artists.
The most distinguishing feature of €œMidnight Green € is K-Kruz €™s eclectic production. Combining the styles of heralded producers Pete Rock and Madlib, K-Kruz maintains his individuality by subtly incorporating Science-Fiction elements into his sound. While any hint of Sci-Fi normally acts as a reflexive caution to the listener, as it has unfortunately come to connote El-P, K-Kruz is able to make it work. By only hinting at the futuristic in the midst of his soulful, horn-blazing beats, K-Kruz ensures that the Sci-Fi remains interesting and enticing as opposed to overbearing. Consequently, rather than €œFantastic Damage €, the listener is reminded of Dan The Automator €™s brilliance on €œDeltron 3030. €
K-Kruz certainly keeps the listeners attention for the duration of €œMidnight Green € as he varies the tone and tempo of each track, progressing from implicative, jazzy rhythm to hard-hitting, head-bobbing beats. As a result, the listener should be pleased with K-Kruz €™s production regardless of his or her taste.
On the lyrical side, Racecar is also a successful blend of several artists. For the better part of the album, Racecar €™s flow is extremely similar to that of M.F. Doom allowing for Racecar to mimic the stream of consciousness abstractions that Doom has perfected. While Doom often remains intentionally superficial, however, Racecar frequently strives for the more substantial. This is especially evident on the album €™s eighth track, €˜Bushed, €™ a conscientious post-9/11 societal critique. That is not to say that Racecar is somber and self-important, as he is not. For every serious track there is at least one lighthearted foot-tapper, complete with the lyrical skills found throughout the album.
Likewise, Racecar should not be labeled as simply an M.F. Doom clone, as he also borrows from MC s such as Dr. Octagon, Common, and Dave from De La Soul (who appears on the €˜Vacant Rhymes €™.) And while Racecar does indeed adopt aspects of these artists €™ styles, he does not blatantly copy them. These artists only represent Racecar €™s sphere of influence. They are the MC s to which Racecar can be compared.
With K-Kruz bearing similarity to Madlib and Racecar resembling M.F. Doom, one may expect €œMidnight Green € sound a lot like €œMadvillainy €. And while this is true to a degree, as the tracks are short, quirky, and unconventional, the fact that Modill maintain their distinctness definitely makes the record idiosyncratic.
Being comprised of certain characteristics that have made other albums extraordinary, €œMidnight Green € is a fresh, exciting album that seems to do it all. An unbelievably realized debut, €œMidnight Green € has the potential to be a classic given that it withstands the test of time. Hip-Hoppers will hear more from Modill provided they continue to release projects of this caliber.