Published Apr 06, 2015Mello Music continues its winning streak with Red Pill's Look What This World Did To Us. The alt-rap label started the year off strong with Kenn Starr's sturdy Square One before dropping Rapper Big Pooh's socio-economic opus Words Paint Pictures late last month, leaving Red Pill with a tough act to follow, but the young Detroit rapper more than rises to the occasion, unveiling lyrics that range from deeply intimate, to unflinchingly grim, to hilariously self deprecating, often in the same bar.
That versatility is especially apparent on "Rap Game Cranky," where Pill spits, "My apartment functions as a dungeon / Curmudgeon, don't invite me to your functions," before veering into darker territory: "Sippin' on this liquor / Probably fuckin' up my liver."
That nuanced tone is furthered by L.A. producer Duke Westlake, who employs vintage squeaky horns and spindly piano notes to give "Rap Game Cranky" a backdrop that wavers between foreboding and nostalgic. North Carolinian studio guru L'Orange is even more successful in that regard, enriching two Look What tracks with his trademark, unrivalled mastery of dusty samples from the 1940s. Unfortunately, midway track "Kids" features an instrumental that chafes with those other aged beats, mainly because it's such a splendid tribute to comparatively recent '70s soul songs. That sonic backdrop, built by Motor City producer Hir-O, is reminiscent of Late Registration-era Kanye West, thanks to its tightly looped vocal sample, soaring string melodies and pit-pat drum beat.
But some of the LP's very best production comes courtesy of its MC. Red Pill takes the reins on four of Look What's tracks — more than any of the other featured beatsmith, and for good reason. His euphoric sample choices on "Smoke Rings" include cooing vocals and wind chime piano keys that woo the ear. In short, Red Pill showcases the prowess of a rap elder on Look What, and his skills behind the mic and behind the boards are sure to keep his more senior label mates on their toes. (Mello Music Group)