Senim Silla The Name The Motto The Outcome

[Sleeper Cell; 2007]

Rating: 5/5

Styles: hip-hop, Golden-Era, Underground
Others: Binary Star, OneBeLo, Athletic Mic League, Icon The Mic King

In 1999, Binary Star unleashed their debut LP, Waterworld, unto the masses with a staggeringly low 1,000-copy pressing, which barely allowed it to reach outside Michigan, the group's native state. The album's 17 tracks embodied the essence of the Golden Era of hip-hop while elevating its style, attitude, and lyricism to an entirely new level. The album just bounced with a vintage funk vibe, and MCs Senim Silla and OneManyArmy rewrote the standards on rhythm and flow. The album (and group) is still largely slept on today by most press outlets, but the internet has provided both MCs a rabid online following.

In the eight years since Waterworld's release, Senim Silla has been nearly dormant, but the 12 songs contained on his first solo outing are anything but. The lyrics are insightful, and the manner in which they're delivered is electric. The production maintains a consistent feel throughout, even though it's handled by a myriad of people, including former collaborator Decompoze and Mississippi Steve. The use of guitar, drums, and washed out electronics provides a familiar feeling, but it's still one step removed from your typical contemporary hip-hop. This is not a top-40 album, and if this recording were listened to casually, it wouldn't have nearly the same impact. The album's secrets lie within the lyrics, the attitude, and a layered approach to songwriting. Each track plays in a similar manner to Silla's best on Waterworld, "Slang Blade," in that each listen improves on the last.

Singling out tracks for deeper critical analysis is irrelevant, because this is an album full of favorites, contrary to the usual underground outing with one or two solid tracks and a bunch of filler. The benefit of waiting eight years between releases is that everything can be refined until it's worth something. The guest vocal work is done by Sleeper Cell vet Naaman Norris, who sings on a few songs and provides the only guest MC verse on "Rear Window." Every time Naaman adds his flourish to a track, it's a sharp reminder of why Pro Tools will never usurp physical skill. His style isn't reminiscent of anyone in particular due to the varying soul, funk, and hip-hop influences, and mostly because his style is not commonly found on hip-hop albums.

There's a a vitality present here that is lacking in most hip-hop, and Silla sums up how he feels on "Keep it Coming," "Whoever said Hip-Hop's dead never met me." This writer would be inclined to agree.

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