If Seven Days had an award for Emotional Truth in a Hip-Hop Album, the self-titled EP from Algorhythms might win this year. A collaborative effort between Northeast Kingdom MC Thirtyseven (who has since relocated to Illinois) and Boston-based producer Dr. Quandary, Algorhythms match unsophisticated beats and samples with soul-exposed, lying-on-the-shrink’s-couch lyrical honesty that breaks the machismo mold found in so much of the genre’s current mainstream content.
This 10-track EP — available for free download at www.mediafire.com — is a welterweight work at best, coming in at under 25 minutes. A third of the album is taken up by minute-long intros, interludes and random-sample grooves laid down by Tibetan exile Dr. Quandary. To judge Algorhythms EP on quantity alone would be unjust, however.
The album is also a confession, life lesson, repentance and declaration of intent. Drug use is a running theme, though with every mention of “hash vapors,” “ridiculous shrooms” and “crazy drugs,” Thirtyseven — born Justin Boland — bounces back and forth between reveling in their mind-expanding properties and reviling their life-destroying tendencies.
There’s a fair dose of the spiritual in here, too; the album’s sole voice finds equal space for monkey religions, Christian addictions and Buddhist meditations. With the succinctness of a true poet, Thirtyseven hits every topic of import in his life in the 90-second song “Graph Paper.” Even the reigning administration is fired a shot of warning, when the rapper states, “People say a good student digs his teacher’s grave / so tell Karl Rove graduation is just a week away.”
When Thirtyseven isn’t spitting venom, he’s reflecting on mistakes made and promises broken. Where most on the mike want to bask in the light, this self-effacing, spiritual sojourner openly foresees this album never getting made for all the bridges burned. Though never explicitly apologetic, Thirtyseven doesn’t make excuses, nor does he hide from his demons. Honesty is this lyricist’s weapon. And for all the woes he may have caused others on the way, this melancholic breath of fresh air deserves a listen by any searching for the courage to face their own past, their own enemies and, ultimately, themselves.