Contrary to the concept created on Mr. Lif's new EP, the man ain't lost. If anything, he's increasing his presence with his latest release. The production falters at times, but Lif's lyrical performance is flawless despite some beats that fall short. "Enter the Colossus" was a hard album to follow up - it was hugely successful and took Lif to entirely new heights within the underground hip hop community. No matter what any given head's style may be, it's nearly impossible for any to say they can't feel Lif or that he's wack. He's talented, he's prolific, and most importantly, he's consistent. Something that has become somewhat of a rarity of late. His performance on "Emergency Rations" is on par with the standard he's already established.
The album opens with a spoken intro by Akrobatik and Brotha PC, a short skit where the two try and uncover Lif's unknown whereabouts. The album's marketing pitch is that Lif has gone missing and his friends are putting out some of his unreleased tracks in his absence. Pretty clever gimmick, yet probably confusing to those who aren't up on industry news. The first two tracks, "Jugular Vein" and "Heavy Artillery," produced by Lif and Boston emcee Edan, respectively, aren't that much more than mediocre. The beat to "Jugular Vein" carries an eclectic sample that sounds like something from an anime cartoon, but on both tracks Lif flows effortlessly. I'll say right now that I cannot stand Edan, so I'll try not to be too biased as to his efforts as producer on "Heavy Artillery," but it is just as abrasive and unpleasant as his flows. Speaking of Edan's rhymes, he collaborates with Lif again on "Get Wise '91." The beats aren't terrible, but why so many kids jock Edan will always be beyond me. Performing up to his usual standard, Lif's delivery is stellar.
Political ideologies aside, I have to spend a minute on "Home Of The Brave," definitely the best track on the album. I seriously can't get enough of it. Fundamentally, it's excellent. But the lyrics are what make it such a winner - Lif comes as on point as any emcee I've ever seen. Discussing American society and politics in the shadow of 9-11, Lif's critical standpoint is plainly evident, but he plays the card well, with lines like: "It's easy to control the scares, so they keep us in fear/With their favorite Middle Eastern demon named bin Laden this year/We'll disguise this blood lust as patriotism/Convincin' the livin' to love Operation Let's Get 'Em/But when he realized we don't support their attacks they needed something to distract/Huh anthrax." If you're on some anti-American shit, this is going to be your track, but any listener will admit to its solidity.
The rumor flying around is that the album was produced by El-P. Despite the fact that it was released on Def Jux, El only produced one track on the album, which is definitely consistent with his typical style. He drops a decent verse along with Lif, both come nice but it's nothing to write home about. Overall, the shared production responsibility worked well for the album, due to Lif's varying content. The production on each track complimented his lyrics well, or maybe vice-versa, but each track comes off polished and complete; no matter how much I personally don't like how it sounds, I can't deny that the talent put into creating this album is largely evident. The degree to which any individual will like it is solely dependent on personal preference - if you are a fan of Lif as an emcee, you definitely won't be disappointed. Other heads won't be able to argue against its merits, but whether you'll rave about it or not, well, that's up to you.