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DJBooth Album Review
Sparks supporters finally have one place to find all his best tracks over the last several months with the release of his new mixalbum Super Senior, a staggeringly versatile collection of tracks co-presented by 2Dopeboyz and KevinNottingham.com. If Sparks has been in school longer than most he’s definitely learned a few things, because Super Senior is the work of a man who’s hellbent on proving he belongs among hip-hop’s elite (he doesn’t, yet, but he’s closing the gap shockingly fast).
The hallmark of Sparks’ work is his ability to rhyme on any beat in any style, from street to backpacker, and Super Senior is proof of his chameleon-like microphone skills. Case in point, the mixalbum’s opening In the Building, a marching cut that hits hard with a huge horn section and sick rhymes from Sparks. No, I mean literally sick: “You are rockin with the baddest, lyrically my bars sick, cancer with the status.” On the opposite end of the spectrum is On n On, a smoothly winding underground cut featuring a verse from fellow up-and-comer Pugz Atomz and an airy chorus from frequent collaborator Tina Quallo. Actually, even the pronounced difference between those two tracks doesn’t really demonstrate Super Senior’s musical range. Just compare and contrast the neo-soul Spoken Word, featuring Sparks at his most organic, and the video-game-soundtrack-turned-banger I Know, which finds Sparks speeding up his flow to breakneck speed. Or take Slum Dog Millions, Super Senior’s most club-ready offering, and Blind Man, a bluesy meditation on Sparks’ life struggles. If there’s another project this year that covers that much musical ground I haven’t heard it.
I know what all you conspiracy theory mofos are thinking: “DJBooth sponsored the mixalbum, of course Nathan’s saying it’s dope.” Well, I don’t confirm your paranoid fears, but it’s a fair point. So just so this review doesn’t get lumped into the “JFK was assassinated by aliens category,” let me take a moment to point out where Super Senior falls short of perfection. First of all, as Dave Chapelle once pointed out, all rappers want to be comedians, and the chronically unfunny skits they insist on filling their albums with are proof. Unfortunately, Sparks also falls victim to skit-lovers disease, inundating the album with unnecessary interludes, several featuring a white chick named Becky. Are they bad? No, they have their moments, but you could cut every single one and Super Senior wouldn’t be missing a thing. On a more musical level, Sparks versatility is a double-edged sword. Like a hip-hop shapeshifter he can adapt to any environment, but Super Senior didn’t leave me with a solid grasp of who Sparks really is. The danger of being everything to everyone is that you can become nothing to no one, and as Sparks continues to develop as an artist I hope he’ll be able to further solidify his musical mission.
But those are notes for the future. In the here and now we’ve got Super Senior, a work of hip-hop dynamism that you should either dig or seriously begin to question your musical tastes. If I had to pick just one track to represent Sparks I’d have to go with Overtime, a lyrically complex cut that’s just essentially three straight minutes of flow - and for all that quantity every line impressively retains some serious quality (which actually describes Sparks as a whole). But why take my word for it? Download Super Senior and hear for yourself what a rapper on the verge of blowing up sounds like. Actually, I’ll take it one step further and guarantee Sparks will blow up. I’m placing money down on the man, and I never lose a bet.
DJBooth Rating - 4 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 10/27/09
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