Mr. Complex first caught my attention with the "Rhyme Related EP" by Polyrhythm Addicts (an underground supergroup composed of Shabaam Sahdeeq, Complex, Apani B, & DJ Spinna). Although Complex did a very good job, my attention was more on Shabaam Sahdeeq due to familiarity. After many singles and a compilation "The Complex Catalog", Mr. Complex finally released "Hold This Down". Even though some of the songs have been released years ago, the LP still sounds fresh and has a very cohesive flow. Basically, "Hold This Down" is a very dope album.
Many songs immediately hit the listener hard but become even better after time passes and they can be appreciated. "Desire" (produced by Darp Malone) has some amazing ambient-sounding guitar work and a smooth hand-clap beat. The track becomes an anthem for success and the drive to move forward. Complex's hook is delivered with authority and motivation: "…This ain't ever gonna stop / I maintain focus on the dot / Got a heart that shines, darkness cannot block / I feel it in my soul cuz it's burning hot / It's desire baby!…" Complex's verses are also incredible due not only to the deep and clever lyrics but the delivery and overall feel of the track. "Divine Intervention" (produced by Pharoahe Monch) has this mind-blowing ethereal keyboard melody that becomes a true soundscape. The un-credited female singer harmonizes wordless melodies in the background for the hook. Her voice is also quite ethereal and somewhat angelic. Complex tells stories in his verses and paints some vivid pictures: "...I said 'What's that in your pocket?' / He said 'Getcha hands out my pocket'/ His chin was slow so I socked it / He fell back and pulled out a gat, and pointed it at / And rata-tat-tat - And Skully screamed no / Just then I knew I had fractions of a second just to kick a flow / But yo, the shots missed / You can blame it on the rhyme invention / Or divine intervention..." Monch and Complex make an incredible pair. Their chemistry shines very bright. The only thing missing on this track is a verse by Monch himself. He should have rocked the mic this beat. Instead, he just rocked the beat (production-wise). Complex gets very clever with "Rhapsody" (produced by Lee Stone) as he tells about a city of hip-hop. He drops the names of old and new school hip-hop people and constructs a city just for them. It's an excellent and very clever track. Other very cool tracks include the very energetic "The Day Your Ass Got Ignited" (produced by Lee Stone) and the driving anthem titled "Make Sure That It Counts" (produced by Beyond There). Both tracks cannot be ignored due to the slamming beats, the catchy hooks, the intense themes, and Complex's outstanding performances.
The turntables and the use of samples play an important role in the dopeness of "Hold This Down" LP. The amazing "Stupid Dope Fresh" (produced by Darp Malone) has turntable wizardry by DJ Crossfada and DJ Son and features Eridotcom on the mic. This track is dope because it truly shines in every way. The emcees have chemistry and rock the mic with witty lyrics and a wild flow. The beat is thick and fun at the same time. The scratching for the hook is truly mind-blowing. "Ima Kill It" (produced by Lee Stone) uses a Richard Pryor sample in the hook. This is an old song but it still sounds fresh due to the timeless quality. The drums bang with an up-beat soul as the chopped up piano pounds. Complex's style and his use of the Richard Pryor sample makes this a beautiful track. "Underground Up" (produced by DJ Spinna) is a sweet track that uses a Busta Rhymes vocal sample sliced inside the hook. It's another beautiful creation.
The guests contribute to the songs but never truly outshine Complex. Produced by C. Jarvis, "Everybody Everywhere" features Punch & Words, Eridotcom, El Fudge & Invinsible. The catchy hook works well: "…Everybody / everywhere / every morning, we spit into the stratosphere…" The beat is also very addictive and every emcee shines. Shabaam Sahdeeq does an excellent job on "Accumulation" (produced by Darp Malone). Complex and S Double go back and forth every couple of bars displaying even more chemistry than what was shown on "Rhyme Related" by Polyrhythm Addicts.
Not every song is perfect. While there is not one bad or wack track on the LP, a small handful of tracks can be labeled as filler. "Bomb Threats" (produced by Beyond There) should not have been the LP's opening track. Although the hook sets up Complex as an emcee, the song is a little too loose and sluggish compared to the gems throughout this LP. "People Don't Kno" is another decent track that cannot be considered bad but does not shine nearly as bright as the others.
One thing cool about the album is that it's hardcore underground hip-hop that never takes itself too seriously. The intro "Definition Of Complex" and the skit "Do You Know My Mans And Em" are very funny skits that are not only original but also perfect in length. Even the more dumbed-down skit "Put Your Head By The Speaker" is much more original than the typical hip-hop LP skit. The final track "Stabbin You" (recorded live in Belgium) has some funny moments and displays the loose vibes that Complex gives off on stage.
Overall, "Hold This Down" is a very cool album from start to finish. Not only does Mr. Complex have a good sense of humor, he can be serious and quite intellectual. He truly is a complex emcee. The diversity in the tracks (lyrically & production-wise) causes the LP to flow with ease. It is extremely easy to listen to the entire LP in one sitting. A beautiful thing about this album is the balance of the production and the emcee's performance. The average hip-hop album has one outweighing the other in terms of quality. Here, the emcee and the production find a balance on every track. While the beats pound along with some mind-blowing scratching, Mr. Complex truly rocks the mic with sharp lyrics and a clever delivery. Fans of East-coast underground hip-hop should definitely "Hold This Down".