Saturday, 16 February 2008

Life - Outside Looking In Album Review

After just one or two minutes of listening to ‘Outside Looking In’ Life’s voice is instantly recognisable as THE sound of Phi-Life Cypher. In the same amount of time Life and Nappa set the tone for the entire CD; this is an introduction in the truest sense of the word.

Lyrically this album has something to say; actually it has lots to say. Serious topics such as first hand experience of our prison system, religious misunderstanding, war and peace, the devil and money all come under Life’s thoughtful microscope. The spiritual and political musings of rappers are usually ignored; they generally are half formed ideals or opinions that serve no purpose. Life is an exception; credible arguments and reasoning prove that these are issues he is serious about. If you were looking for an album to have a mindless party with, then continue your search, this CD deserves deep thought

It’s not just the content of the lyrics that is great; Life’s poetical-but-not-contrived rhymes are jaw dropping and his energetic delivery flawless. No-one raps quite like Life and having originality and uniqueness scores many points in this saturated world of rap.

Not a single beat on this CD can be faulted; DJ Nappa is a wizard who works his magic with what I imagine to be endless crates of ultra-sample-able vinyl. Soul and Prog-Rock seem to be the main ingredients for a spell binding, soulful yet very heavy, array of beats. The close partnership of Nappa and Life is evident; it’s easy to see how Nappa’s beats have prompted Life’s heartfelt lyrics and (probably) vice-versa. This CD furthers my conviction that working with one main producer really does proffer great results. The bonus CD is a collection of 28 classic, re-worked and exclusive Life instrumentals produced by DJ Nappa and Mr. Thing and is perfect for all those aspiring MC’s out there who want to write a verse to a Nappa track.

My only criticism is that scratched samples are used to provide a ‘chorus’ far too often. When Life does write a chorus, it’s pretty catchy (on Soldiers for example) so it’s a wonder that on this release he relies so heavily on Nappa’s collection of (often quite irrelevant) US Hip Hop acapellas. Typically a chorus gives a track a big chunk of individuality and as a result of the employment of the scratched samples some tracks lack identity and rely only on the strong lyrical content and beats.

Stand out tracks are ‘Bad Minds’, ‘Peace’, ‘Prison’, ‘Hands Up’ and ‘Right in Your Face’ but the album as a whole stands out from a mass of recent Hip Hop releases, it has been a pleasure to listen to a CD of this standard. At 20 tracks (plus 28 on CD 2) long any Phi-Life Cypher or Life MC fan will definitely feel like they’ve got their money's worth. ‘Outside Looking In’ will be available on Zebra Traffic on 3rd March; check out the Etch shop to get your copy.

Life - Bomb Propaganda (Clean)
Life - Hands Up (Clean)
Life - Peace (Clean)
Life/DJ Nappa - Sound of The Beast (Clean)

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