Ah, Boston. It’s the last place in America where you can get into a fistfight without fear of someone pulling the biscuit out the oven to tilt the odds in their favor. The hip-hop concerts were so buckwild, rappers stopped doing shows there out of safety concerns. But when they’re not busy stabbing their best basketball player and not pronouncing their R’s, Boston can produce some pretty good rappers, including Guru, Reks, Edo G, and Benzi- I mean, um, nevermind. Also hailing from Boston is Moe Pope, formerly of Mission/Crown City Rockers and Project Move, who has been touted by URB as the “Best Rapper in Boston.” I’m not ready to start crowning him yet, as I think Reks makes fantastic music and Grey Hairs was easily one of 2008’s best albums. However, Moe Pope deserves to be mentioned in the same breath off the strength of Life After God, his latest album, produced entirely by Rain with the exception of one Headnodic beat.
Life After God is experimental, yet familiar, in that it contains many key elements of that true-school hip-hop that we all know and love, such as jazz samples, boom bap, and rock music. Rain uses these influences as purely inspiration rather than imitation, a skill that a lot of these beatmakers out here are lacking. Moe holds up his end of the bargain, as he, too, draws from rap’s rich history to fuel his rhymes. The last verse on “Rock Me I” is a tribute to hip-hop legends and does a thorough job of listing off some of hip-hop’s most memorable symbols that are unique to the culture. Favorites include “Freeway’s beard,” “Nas’ pen,” and “the eagle on Ghostface’s wrist.” Coupled with “Rock Me II”, both tracks bring a positive vibe that strives to capture what we love about hip-hop
Technically speaking, Moe is equally impressive in that he has FLOW. His style is reminiscent of AZ, he seems to have total control of what he’s saying and he just rolls right along in “Foolish,” which features fellow talented Bostonian Reks. Rain does an excellent job in providing Moe with a sound that is equal parts golden-age hip-hop and experimental, as some of the beats dip their toes into trip-hop. As is the case with when I listen to trip-hop, the albums seem longer because of the sheer variety of sounds to listen to. Life After God seems that way as well, despite running a tidy 40 minutes. 40 minutes doesn’t leave much room for error, and the album only slips once (see “Bang Bang”), but a quick click of the “Next” button and you’re into the exceptionally jazzy “Good Vibe II,” one of a handful of enjoyable musical interludes on the album.
Admittedly, Life After God took a couple of spins to appreciate (I’m always wary of albums that don’t have drugs and violence. It’s a personal bias). But upon further review, it’s a fine tip of the cap to the legends that came before Moe Pope and Rain. The album is chock-full of references and sound bites from classic tracks that hip-hop heads will catch and smile to themselves because they get it. Life After God isn’t exactly for the gangstas, but it’s certainly for the true-schoolers and is one of the stronger albums of the year so far.