L’orange & Stik Figa The City Under the City

L’orange & Stik Figa The City Under the City
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Producer L'Orange (who hails from North Carolina) and Topeka, KS native Stik Figa join forces on this intriguing project, conceptually conspiring to create a unique urban environment of their own. On The City Under the City, they're largely successful in doing just that. L'Orange's unsettlingly alluring production welds found sounds, spliced clips from archival radio broadcasts and swing-era jazz samples to dissonant boom-bap. Stik Figa serves as a willing and able accomplice. His strikingly poetic rhymes are densely introspective, with an obsessively observational streak to boot, translating as well to the page as the ear. This combination makes for a heady listen, yielding some impressive results. Tracks like haunting single "Monochrome" and the urgent horn stabs of the Wu-evoking "Smoke Rings" are clear highlights. While the guest appearances of artists such as Rapsody, Open Mike Eagle and Has-Lo are uniformly excellent, they do little to contrast the unapologetically insular mode of this ambitious record as a needed counterpoint. As promised, the record evokes dark alleyways and shortcuts, but it could also use the occasional direct route to drive the message home. (Mello Music Group)