(Definitive Jux, CD)
Boston hip-hop hero Mr. Lif has long rocked the underground with his politically charged lyrics and taut, agile flow. Lif sees conspiracy everywhere, with cabals of the wealthy and powerful preying on the underclass. His previous releases were full of nonconformist spirit, but his message was sometimes lost in abstruse wordplay. Lif's latest, Mo' Mega, is blunt, scathing and effective.
Influential and progressive rap label Definitive Jux allows him a terrific platform to espouse his points of view. Production help from label chief and fellow artist El-P gives the disc a cutting-edge feel, with hard-rock guitars rubbing elbows with traditional hip-hop elements, such as head-nodding beats and choice funk samples.
Mo' Mega kicks off with the tense "Collapse." The song describes the tribulations of a steady-gigging rapper. "Sorry, baby girl, your man is out on tour / The floor might drop out if I don't walk out / See, I think I might have just missed my own life," Lif gripes. The dense mix of crunching riffs and paranoiac synth vamps contribute to the track's agitated feel.
"Brothaz" chronicles the despair of ghetto inhabitants around the world. Lif is at his best when attacking powers of oppression, and here he unloads with both barrels. "Fact one: America don't give a fuck about you, so get off it / I'm not a prophet, they just want the profit / They make you want it, so you cop it, and soon you can't stop it," he fumes. "Fact two: Darfur's in a state of emergency / It's genocide, Code Red Classified / If this was Kosovo, it'd be over, bro." The man's got a point.
Lif's anti-consumerist invectives continue with "The Fries," a darkly comedic look at mindless convenience. "They swerved into the curb with their heads on the steering wheel / Kids blacked out in the back with a fuckin' Happy Meal / what a crappy deal / but it was only $4.99 / So there's more people in line," he raps over fuzzed-out guitars and a stuttering rhythm.
The album features a few notable guest appearances, including Aesop Rock's stream-of-consciousness rant on "Take, Hold, Fire!" and Murs' feisty turn on "Murz Iz My Manager." The latter, while still political, is somewhat lighthearted in tone.
Mr. Lif lays bare the ugly aspects of modern living while illustrating the disparities between rich and poor. His high-powered intellect acts as a cultural microscope, bringing various societal ills into sharp relief. Mo' Mega is just what hip-hop needs these days: strong insights and unflappable conviction.