Trumpet loops aren't the only thing hip-hop artists have borrowed from jazz musicians. While posse cuts and guest verses have long been rap-album staples, increasingly emcees and producers have been linking up for concentrated collaborative side projects, allowing rhyme junkies to benefit from what-if dream teams.
Friends since youth and coworkers since Alchemist began supplying Evidence's group, Dilated Peoples, with bangers, Lord Steppington heralds the official joint effort between two of L.A.'s grimy rap heroes. Coarse irreverence wrapped up in a faux-distinguished package, Lord Steppington strips away all sellable hooks and serves it up raw, like Gang Starr with fewer lessons.
Each participant is a double-threat in his own right, but Al handles 13 of the LP's 14 dank instrumentals, and Ev's cadence hangs right alongside guest spots from respected wordsmiths Roc Marciano, Fashawn, Blu and Styles P. Not only is Steppington the first must-own rap record of 2014, but it represents freedom for its makers. Evidence's recent solo work has seen him plumb his soul and examine his emotions; this time he's "Al Bundy with no horse and carriage," just rhyming for the sake of riddling. And Alchemist, who you may have seen DJing for Eminem on Saturday Night Live, gets to seize the mic with the same abandon he did 20 years ago as one half of Cypress Hill's protégé group, Whooliganz. Best of all, "Byron G" is a Whooliganz reunion, complete with a tight verse from actor Scott Caan.
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