Boston’s contributions to hip-hop have been diverse, intelligent, and appreciated by few. From Guru (of Gangstarr) to Edo G., Boston has generally been underappreciated but respected by the underground hip-hop world. Three excellent artists from Boston have come together to form a supergroup. Akrobatik, Mr. Lif, and DJ Fakts are each unique as they join together to form The Perceptionists. Mr. Lif released the magnificent “I Phantom” album on Definitive Jux along with 2 solid EPs. His unique voice, political views, quick flow, and insightful lyrics are unmatched by anyone. Akrobatik’s debut album, “Balance” (released on Coup D’Etat) was also a superb LP which consisted of hungry energy, intelligent lyricism, and a variety of creative topics. DJ Fakts One produced tracks for both artists. While LPs from supergroups are a hit or miss affair, The “Black Dialogue” LP by The Perceptionists is an excellent experience which is both thought provoking and fun.
The best songs from “Black Dialogue” give the listener instant satisfaction but will also improve with age. The opening track, “Let’s Move” (produced by Fakts One) is an adrenaline filled anthem which ignites the album’s energy. Akrobatik’s energetic hook is both fun and wild: “…Let me see some heads nodding, fists pumping, feet stomping / Ass shaking, necks breaking, earth quaking – Let’s move! / F*ck a battle, we got nothing to prove – Let’s move!…” The different styles and vocal tones of Mr. Lif and Akrobatik compliment the track extremely well. Another energetic song is “Blo”, which uses the famous Krs-One vocal sample in the hook. Produced by El-P, “Blo” is perfect example of controlled chaos working in magnificent way. “Love Letters” (produced by Willie Evans Jr.) is an incredible romantic love song which maintains the rough hip-hop strength. Akrobatik’s opening verse, along with his flow, adds to the song’s unique and poignant style. Akrobatik rhymes, “…I knew it from the moment that I saw you, you was just what I need / see, you the second grade teacher for my homeboy’s seed / He came to pick him up the other day and I was in the whip / I saw you and immediately started to trip / It’s like I realized for the first time what beauty was / And all of this was even before I peeped the gluteus / Maximum anxiety, played the shy role / Gave you a ‘hello’ and a subtle eye roll…” The marriage of the old-school and new-school deliveries are executed with a graceful precision. Lif and Ak perfectly ride driving beat while displaying their hip-hop bond.
The “Black Dialogue” LP is also filled with some very creative concept-driven tracks. Produced by Fakts One, “Career Finders” features Humpty Hump (aka Shock G of Digital Underground). The song is basically an interview between recruiters trying to find a better career for rapper candidates. The energetic, old-school beat has a deep, funky bass line. In the first verse, Akrobatik and Mr. Lif go back and forth with exceptional cadence. In the third verse, Akrobatik closes the track with a mind-blowing flow and clever lyricism. Ak rhymes, “Instead of making records, having everybody nervous / Maybe we could get you something with the secret service / Many applicants frowned when they first heard this / But what’s being an artist got to do with being murdered?” Produced by Fakts One, “5 O’clock” features Phonte of Little Brother. The song captures the feeling of freedom felt at the end of a long work day. “Party Hard” featuring Guru and Camu Tao, is a fun and clever track which offers a different viewpoint to the typical party track. Produced by Camu Tao, “Party Hard” has thick electronic handclaps and a hard rocking melody. The light-hearted theme adds diversity to the album.
Serious topics can also be found between the fun songs or concept-driven tracks. The title track, “Black Dialogue” (produced by Willie Evans Jr.) addresses African-American culture with extraordinary insight. From slavery and exploitation to theft of Black culture and self-criticism, “Black Dialogue” is not only educational but a brutally honest display of cultural pride. “Memorial Day” (produced by Cyrus The Great) is a moving song about the current war situation in the Middle East. The chanted chorus asks some important questions, “Where are the weapons of mass destruction?/ We’ve been looking for months and we ain’t found nothing / Please Mr. President tell us something / We knew from the beginning that your *ss was fronting.” While some may think the chorus is simple or cynical, the verses are poignant narrations from the points of view of soldiers.
While the average hip-hop CD consists of 30% filler, the tracks that some may consider filler are still excellent. “Frame Rupture” does not instantly satisfy like the others but still has an undeniable intensity. Produced by El-P, the hook uses a vocal sample of Erick Sermon over weird electronic rhythms and wild horns. “People 4 Prez” (produced by El-P) is not catchy at all since the track does not have a chorus. The flow and lyrics of both Lif and Ak fit perfectly together, making “People 4 Prez” one of those dope songs that people must learn to appreciate over time.
Today’s hip-hop LPs usually run approximately 70 minutes long and have up to 20 tracks. “Black Dialogue” by The Perceptionists is a tight album with 12 solid tracks that are strong enough to stand alone. Diverse in both theme and style, the LP has a very high replay level as a balance between lyrics and production. While Mr. Lif and Akrobatik have released excellent solo albums, their chemistry together is unique and refreshing. Not only do they respect the roots of hip-hop but they are trying to help hip-hop’s evolution. “Black Dialogue” is a truly brilliant album that satisfies more with every listen. One major perception of “Black Dialogue” by The Perceptionists is that the album is will become an underground classic.