Hip-hop is art. Now you may think of art as something that only belongs in museums, but nothing...
DJBooth Album Review
I’m not the only one who thinks hip-hop deserves a spot next Renaissance paintings and Greek sculptures; just ask Naledge. The Kidz in the Hall founder is readying the world for his debut solo album with the release of his mixtape Chicago Picasso, a work of art that not only further cements the Chi’s status as the most lyrical city in the country (Lupe/Kanye/Common, etc.), but should firmly plant Naledge on every “rapper to watch out for” list. In fact, Chicago Picasso might just be the best mixtape of the year.
Like its namesake artist, Chicago Picasso is a fiercely creative work, a mixtape that pushes every boundary it can find, rising and falling between bangers and smoothed out summer anthems. I’ve been listening to Chicago Picasso almost non-stop since it first touched my speakers, and in retrospect it was Standing on Sofas that got me hooked. Over a beat built around a marching band horn line, stuttering percussion and an Oprah-themed hook, Naledge manages to reference Mozart, golfer Nick Faldo and rocker Tommy Lee. It’s a lyrical feat as amusing as it is impressive. On second thought, as dope as Standing on Sofas is, it was Focus that sold me. Along with a gripping guest verse from Consequence, Naledge absolutely owns the pounding Focus. It’s the definition of rewind-worthy. Actually, that’s a good example of what it’s like to listen to Chicago Picasso on the whole: nearly every track is your favorite, until the next one hits. Cool Relax is your new joint until The Beat Goes On drops, and Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous is your new favorite until Futuristic S**t starts pacing through your headphones. The rest of the country needs to step their game up, because the Windy City’s killing everyone right now. (That’s right, I’m looking at you Boise.)
Am I going overboard in my praise of Chicago Picasso? Probably, but you know what? F**k it. Lord knows plenty of uninspired and commercially motivated music gets shoved down out throats everyday, so when I get handed a piece of legitimate art I feel almost obligated to over-hype it. With that in mind, Naledge’s greatest strength is probably his versatility. While nearly every track I’ve mentioned so far falls on the harder end of the spectrum, Naledge is equally comfortable slowing down the pace and dropping tracks like the slowly unwinding Star Struck or the soulful It Is What It Is. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have some weaknesses. Based on the disappointingly un-obscene Look At Them Hips it doesn’t sound like he has a stripper anthem in him (which is fine considering Pitbull is single handedly keeping strip joints in business), and it’d be nice to see a true party jam from the man, but in the end they’re barely even complaints. No one can do everything. Except for Jay.
I’ll make this real simple for you. Go get Chicago Picasso right now, or miss out on the chance to say “I was bumping his early s**t” when his seemingly inevitable rise through hip-hop’s ranks comes to fruition. Ultimately, there’s nothing better than watching an artist do what they love. It’s why we watch Lebron ball and Eva Mendes act (or, you know, just stand there), and it’s why I can’t stop playing Chicago Picasso. Hip-hop is art, and Naledge is an artist - in the truest sense of the word.
DJBooth Rating - 4 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on Jul 07, 2009
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