Hip hop heads might not all know it but today they just received a double salvo of epicness. Two heavyweight albums have been, released just hours apart, from opposite sides of the pond. Veteran Boston MC Mr. Lif just released ‘Don’t Look Down’, his sixth solo album but first with Mello Music Group, and first in seven long years. From France young MHD just released his first ever album, named after himself. He may be the new kid on the block on the French rap scene but he is already the author of a new movement called ‘Afro-Trap’, a fusion of rich African rhythms and the lastborn of hip hop. MHD vs Mr. Lif; how do their new projects compare?
Round 1: Singles: It was towards the end of March that MHD released the single ‘Roger Milla’ and quickly followed it up with a video shot in the suburbs of Paris. That the clip has racked up millions of views after just a few days online tells you something about the quality of the music. The hodge-podge of ethnic African drums and percussions is simply intoxicating and you’ll find yourself copying the simple dance steps demonstrated by the 21 year-old and his crew.
A few days ago we put you up on Mr. Lif’s jazzy new single ‘Let Go’. And you will agree it is a similarly addictive listen. There’s so much going on in the instrumental alone; the squeaking organ, the gentle sway of the drums but all this complements, not takes away from, Lif’s intellectual flow.
Both singles are way out the box as far as the genre goes but MHD wins the round for that cute dance move.
Round 2: Flow: Mr. Lif brings to the table a distinctive unforced style which he has perfected over the years since he first came on the scene 20 years ago. The influence of conscious rap legends like KRS-One and Guru is evident in rhymes that force you to pause and reflect. Having been born when Lif was learning his craft, MHD’s lyrics are more spontaneous, spat in a forceful Parisian accent. There’s a bit of braggadocio and some repping for his hometown, but things never get too serious.
The depth of Lif’s flow is irresistible, round 2 goes to Don’t Look Down.
Round 3: Production: It’s clear that most of the songs on MHD’s debut are made for the dancefloor. They have that delicious arrangement of drums and percussion that you just can’t not dance to. Mr. Lif’s team opts for a more staid tempo when constructing his beats. Most of the songs are based on the traditional boom-bap template, but ‘Let Go’, ‘The Abyss’ and ‘Don’t Look Down’ offer a bit of variation. The beats are aimed at helping you chew and digest the weighty punchlines the Mello Music rapper drops.
On sheer diversity Don’t Look Down wins
Round 4: Album Art: Both artists’ covers are rich with symbolism. MHD offers up his mixed African and French heritage in his paint-soaked palms. His posture in the picture appears to have been taken while he was dancing, hinting as to his objective when recording the album. There is struggle written all over Mr. Lif’s face on his cover photo and what do you know, that’s what he mostly talks about in the album.
Both covers are cool and meaningful; Round 4 is a tie.
Don’t Look Down wins the bout, but not by much. How do you judge? Show us your score card below.
Miami Based, Internationally Known