The Other Side of the Looking Glass
t has generally been agreed upon that the highlight of Anticon’s most famous label sampler, Music for the Advancement of Hip-Hop, was Alias’ “Divine Disappointment.” Taking the role of God as MC, Alias detailed the response that the Divine being might have to the current situation of the world and its inhabitants. As might be expected it was a pessimistic take, but the key to the song was what it did: placing the listener in a situation where they were forced to face a perspective that they may have never encountered before.
Odd, too, when you think of the great personalities of the Anticon crew: Doseone with the nasal to the point of annoyance, for most, voice; Sole, with his controversial lyrics and disses igniting internet message board wars every time a new song or album drops; and the associated members that appeared on the compilation that have since found even greater successes- EyeDea, Buck65 (signed to Warner Brothers Canada), and Slug (on Atmosphere’s God Loves Ugly). But such is the power of the combination of the song’s production and lyrical content- one of those rare moments when it all comes together.
Perhaps this is why many of the songs on Alias’ first proper solo LP for the Anticon label is generally a disappointment. Sure, there are flashes of genuine brilliance- the type of things that informed “Divine Dissapointment.” For all of those moments, however, there are moments of tedium and mediocrity to sit through. Such is the curse of most Anticon output, however- flashes of an actual advancement of hip-hop, only to be overshadowed by songs that operate on the opposite poles of too avant-garde for their own good or too simple to be considered anything other than ordinary.
The former occurs frequently here: both “Jovial Costume” and “Arrival” live in a world where beat and poetry don’t mesh in a meaningful way for the listener’s attention to be held for their four plus minute running times. Perhaps Alias could take a lesson, in this case, from the hip-hop that he doesn’t listen to anymore: 50 Cent’s new album’s rarely has a song over three and a half minutes- and succeeds because a lack of wasted motion.
For the amount of failures on the album, though, there are just as many moments of glittering perfection. “Opus Ashamed”, a collaboration with Doseone, mixes a beautifully hollow drumbeat to harrowing production. Trading lines back and forth with Doseone effortlessly, Alias reaches the heights of “Divine Disappoinment” here quite easily. The same is true on “Final Act”, the closing track on the album. A groaning organ sample mixes with a heavy beat to end the album on a high note.
Judging by the ability of Alias’ production and lyrical ability, the question isn’t will he equal the heights of his greatest single song throughout the course of an album: the question is when. With a renewed focus on songwriting being seen in his plans for an upcoming instrumental EP we can only hope that Alias will be able to put all the pieces together on his next proper LP effort, which will feature material not recorded over two years before its release, hopefully, as is the case on The Other Side of the Looking Glass. Hip-hop fans beware- this may be the type of Anticon rapper you can stomach without having Sole’s ego and Doseone’s voice to get in the way.